Twiss in charge of infrastructure money

Stakeholders? Bet it isn’t us but developers he’s talking about! Exmouth’s Queen’s Drive access for Grenadier, “improved access” to Feniton, Gittisham and Cranbrook western extension here we come!

“Since September last year, EDDC has been charging Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on certain types of new development.

The council passes 15 per cent of this income, or 25 per cent if a neighbourhood plan has been completed, to town or parish councils, with the remainder to be spent by EDDC.

The council is now inviting stakeholders involved in the delivery of infrastructure to bid for this cash by September 22, with a final decision to be made in February 2018.

Councillor Phil Twiss, EDDC’s portfolio holder for strategic development and partnerships, said: “The CIL is a fairer, faster and more transparent way of funding infrastructure delivery.

“It provides more certainty than the current Section 106 system, which is negotiated on a site by site basis.

“However, unlike 106 money, CIL money can be spent anywhere in the district.

“Unfortunately, the projected income from CIL falls a long way short of the total infrastructure costs required to deliver the Local Plan.

“This is because the legislation requires the charges to be set based on what is viable for developments to pay rather than what is required to deliver the necessary infrastructure.

“CIL was designed to be matched with funds from other sources in order to deliver projects and so difficult decisions will need to be made in terms of prioritising projects and projects should demonstrate what other funding would be used in addition to CIL.

“The CIL pot is never going to be able to meet all demands made on it and we will have a robust and rigorous qualification process in place to ensure that the money is well spent and in the right places.”

(Some) council leaders brand single-option consultation a sham

“The leaders of Adur and Worthing councils have called for a ‘sham’ A27 improvements consultation to be halted and re-run with further options.

Highways England has put forward just one £69million proposal to tweak six key junctions between Worthing and Lancing. But councillor Neil Parkin and councillor Dan Humphreys have joined forces to campaign for a rethink. Mr Parkin, Adur District Council leader, said: “Highways England say they want to consult with us but we say this is a sham.”

“By not allowing the public to weigh up options and see full costings how are we to make any kind of decision? “All I do know is the current scheme on the table is barely worth the disruption and certainly not worth spending £69million on.” Modest improvements to six junctions between Durrington Hill and the Lancing Manor roundabout are proposed which would cut three minutes from journey times but, according to Highways England’s own scoring system, would deliver no ‘significant benefits’.

In its consultation document the agency alludes to more expensive and radical solutions, such as underpasses and flyovers but dismisses them as too expensive without further explanation.

Mr Humphreys, Worthing Borough Council leader, said: “The more I listened to officials explaining the scheme at the launch of the consultation the more angry I became. “Highways England do not seem to be taking us seriously. Our questions were met with an ‘experts know best’ response while there was no explanation about why other options hadn’t been explored,” said.

“The current consultation should be halted and a proper one, involving other options and explanations started afresh. The agency must have those plans and calculations so let’s seem them.” The leaders insisted it is not for the councils to submit plans but for Highways England to give local residents, businesses and politicians real choice and real consultation.

Consultation ends on September 12 with two years of construction expected to start in 2020 if the scheme is approved.

Article originally appeared on Worthing Herald”

“Seaton vigil will protest next week’s closure of community hospital beds”

Press release

“NEW Devon CCG, an unelected quango, intends to permanently close the remaining in-patient beds in Seaton and District Community Hospital next week (beds in Okehampton will close at the same time and in Honiton the following week).

The CCG has shamefully ignored the views of the community in Seaton, Colyton, Beer and Axminster and their elected representatives in the town, parish, district and county councils, all of whom have protested against this decision. A narrow majority of councillors on Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, which failed to properly scrutinise the CCG’s decision, has prevented us from formally requiring the Secretary of State to re-examine it.

On the initiative of Cllr Martin Pigott, Vice-Chairman of Seaton Town Council, there will be a vigil outside the hospital on

Monday 21 August
from 12 to 1pm

to protest at the closure of the in-patient beds and express our deep concern about the very future of the hospital. Cllr Jack Rowland, Mayor of Seaton, and I will be supporting the vigil. We shall be supporting Seaton Town Council’s demand that, even at this late stage, Neil Parish MP must intervene with the Government to reverse this decision.”

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton

“Inclusive growth” or exclusive growth in East Devon (soon to be Greater Exeter?)

Greater Exeter or Greater East Devon?

A follow-on from the previous post.

“Inclusive growth is emerging as a key agenda in the UK. The general election was fought from both sides with a promise to create an economy that works for everyone.

City leaders across the country are pursuing inclusive growth as a means for addressing some of the big challenges facing their communities, from poor health and economic exclusion to high demand for services and spiralling financial pressures. Our report, Citizens and Inclusive Growth

explores how we can build on this agenda and support impactful next steps by engaging citizens as part of our strategy for inclusive growth.

The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission set out a bold vision for a new model of growth that truly moves on from the failed trickle down economics of the past. But it also identified a critical gap in current thinking and practice around alternative economic models: the role that citizens should play in shaping them. A “place based” economy is unlikely to succeed without active citizen and community participation. The RSA’s Citizens’ Economic Council has underlined the real value created by getting citizens involved in shaping economic thinking and policy, both in terms of the quality of decision making and the positive effect it has on people’s skills, as well as their sense of agency, self-efficacy and belonging to their place. …

So how can we take the agenda forward in the UK? It’s clear that citizens aren’t featuring enough in conversations and decisions about devolution and strategies for economic growth and development. The parameters of inclusive growth are largely being set by officials, which has meant that too often we are tinkering at the edges of existing growth models rather than transforming them. Evidence from the report suggests greater involvement of a broad range of citizens (especially those with lived experience of hardship and poverty) may have a transformative effect on priorities and policies for growth, encouraging greater equity and sustainability.

There are ways that government and cities could demonstrate their commitment to citizen engagement in pursuit of inclusive growth. One of our suggestions is that in future phases of devolution, localities should negotiate significant devolved funds that are controlled by their citizens through participatory budgeting. The same could apply to the programmes that ultimately replace EU structural and social funds after Brexit.

Inclusive growth should go hand in hand with an inclusive form of decision making. Towns and cities in the UK have a real opportunity to make this happen. “

“Conduct of health committee members investigated by Devon council” – Diviani and Randall-Johnson heavily criticised for behaviour

“Devon County Council has confirmed it is looking into the conduct of members of one of its committees following a debate and vote not to refer a decision to close 72 community hospital beds in Devon to the secretary of state for health.

The matter was debated by the health and adult care scrutiny committee meeting at Exeter’s County Hall on July 25.

Among those who have expressed their concerns is Val Ranger, East Devon District Council ward councillor for Newton Poppleford and Harpford.

She says that at a meeting of East Devon District full council meeting on July 26, Cllr Paul Diviani, who sits on the committee as a representative of district councils, admitted he had not asked the opinion of other district councils about whether they wished to refer the decision to close local hospital beds to the secretary of state, and could offer no evidence on that basis that he was representing their views.

At the meeting Cllr Diviani was among those who voted not to refer the decision to the secretary of state.

Cllr Ranger said: “He said he voted not to because it was unlikely that the secretary of state would overturn the decision.

This seems duplicitous on two count. The first for failing to adequately represent the views of the district councils.

“Secondly for assuming the role of the secretary of state by stating there was no point in referring the matter to him as he was unlikely to overturn the decision.

“At the EDDC scrutiny committee on June 22, EDDC’s views and recommendations were very clear; Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has failed to provide the evidence needed to support their plans.

“However, Cllr Diviani failed to represent those views or the views of other district councils as he did not seek them. He has admitted he voted independently of both EDDC and other district councils, rendering his vote as entirely without integrity in his role at the DCC meeting.

“The vote is an entirely unsafe and undemocratic way of conducting business and brings both EDDC and DCC into disrepute.”

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “We have received a number of comments, representations and complaints about the health and adult care scrutiny committee held last week and about the conduct of members at that meeting.

“We will be looking at all the points raised by Cllr Ranger and others under our normal procedures to see if there are any issues to be addressed.”

However, Cllr Diviani is confident the investigation by DCC will conclude there has been no wrong doing.

He said: “I take this predictable and entirely politically motivated complaint against me by people who contribute little or nothing positive to the debate at face value, and feel sure that DCC will dismiss the allegations as unfounded.

“I have neither seen or heard anything from Ms Ranger on how her party would address the huge challenges facing the NEW Devon CCG and the NHS.

“As the web cam at County Hall malfunctioned and didn’t record properly, the gist of what I said is as below. I did also explain that my position on that scrutiny committee is by virtue of my being elected by the other leaders of all the Devon districts to represent the county-wide views of the district councils, not just East Devon, and is a function I perform regularly both locally and in London through the District Councils Network where I represent the South West.

“There is a tendency to assume that everything is fine as it is, when it quite clearly is not, and that the government will keep throwing money at the NHS as they always have in the past.

“What that underestimates are the social care costs which are massive, but if tackled correctly will reduce the acute care costs, as evidenced by the Kings Fund report. We will still need our hospital buildings which in Honiton are already being used differently, for example, for kidney or chemotherapy treatments. Staffing is still a problem but that is not building dependent.

“Many of us have made a positive decision to live and indeed work in the countryside and a direct result of that decision is a diminution of accessible services we can reasonably expect the state to provide. When able, it is a price we gladly pay for the quality of life afforded.

“In straightened times, we need to cut the cloth accordingly. As is well documented, the largely under funded cost of adult social care is a significant factor in the problems besetting the NHS where the acute care service is the treatment of last resort, and very good it is too, but with the budget sliced off to the top tier local authority.

“As the truly excellent Kings Fund Report from 2016 made exceedingly clear, sorting adult social care comes first and if we tackle that with the help of the district councils the benefits will flow. The NHS cost pressures will diminish and the money can best be spent where most needed.

“In East Devon we have enormous and justifiable pride in our local hospitals and all our existing towns were well endowed. Costs are, however, never static and will always rise without innovation.

“But here we are talking service industry which is always people dependent and where low wages do not necessarily translate into low cost. Simply put, if one person falls, it will take two people to rectify the situation, and if not rectified speedily, the condition and costs multiply exponentially.

“And speedily must mean access to care, quickly. Our travel times are well known and until they are resolved, we will always need staging posts to either stop people occupying the acute provision when unnecessary or to maintain them in a degree of comfort until they can reach the comfort and safety of their own living space.

“The major flaw appears to me to be the ever present ‘one size fits all’. Flexibility is key and our response should be the start.

“Attempting to browbeat the secretary of state with a demand to overturn his own policies is counter intuitive. I prefer to ask him to rural proof our rural situation before allowing any further reductions in service which we on the ground can see will be detrimental, but our transformers would discount. But that is a local decision which should be made locally.”

Also among those who have raised concerns over the debate and vote at the scrutiny meeting is Claire Wright, Devon County Councillor for Otter Valley Ward.

She has said how she was “disappointed” by the behaviour of scrutiny committee chair Sara Randall Johnson who “appeared to do her utmost” to prevent any referral.

She said: “I am also disappointed with the attitude of the majority of the Conservative group who used a variety of ill-informed views and remarks to justify their determination not to refer, refusing to hear or see any member of the public’s distress, frustration and disbelief at the proceedings.

“The chair’s attitude made me angry and led to a protracted row where I repeatedly asked her why she had allowed a proposal to be made and seconded at the very start of the meeting by her conservative colleague, Rufus Gilbert, not to refer to the secretary of state for health, when I already had a proposal that I had lodged with her and the two officers, before the meeting.”

She added: “When they did what they did at the health scrutiny meeting, the Conservatives betrayed thousands of local people.”

The close vote whether to refer the decision was six votes to seven, with two abstentions. All those who voted with Cllr Gilbert’s motion were Conservative’s.

Cllr Wright, who is seeking advice on what happened at the meeting, concluded: “I am quite certain that with a different approach by the chair the outcome would have been different, and local peoples views would have been respected and acted upon.”

Outsourcing kills democracy

“Outsourcing of public services began in the 1980s, a central feature of the drive to roll back what neoliberalism casts as a bureaucratic, inefficient state. Its proponents claimed the involvement of private providers would increase cost-savings and efficiency, and improve responsiveness to the “consumers” of public services. Thirty years later, the value of these contracts is enormous – more than £120bn worth of government business was awarded to private companies between 2011 and 2016, and their number is increasing rapidly. At least 30% of all public outsourcing contracts are with local authorities.

Unlike government, private companies have no duty to provide for any public interest; the laws of the market mean their primary motive must be to maximise returns for shareholders. Questions have been raised about whether corruption or “misuse of public office for private gain” contributed to the Grenfell disaster; but the nature of outsourcing public services means that even the most well-meaning politicians can enter into contracts that result in severe detriment to the public, in both financial and human terms, without any crime having been committed.

The relationship between local councils and companies bidding for contracts is usually highly unequal. Local government funding cuts have caused a reduction in resources dedicated to providing scrutiny and oversight. The Audit Commission, previously responsible for scrutinising local authority contracts, has been abolished. The private companies involved, often huge multinationals, have significant advantage over local authorities in terms of technical knowledge and negotiating experience.

If it’s hard for councillors to evaluate and oversee these contracts it is nigh on impossible for the people using and experiencing services to apply scrutiny to the contracts governing their delivery. “Commercial confidentiality” is frequently cited as a reason for not disclosing the information necessary to assess contract content – and services, when delivered by the private sector, are not subject to the rules on freedom of information that apply to local government.

Attempting to use opportunities promised in legislation when the Audit Commission was abolished, residents in Lambeth, London, recently undertook a “peoples’ audit” of the councils accounts. The resident audit group included highly experienced finance professionals, who spent hundreds of hours chasing information requests and working their way through poor quality data. The published report claims to have identified numerous instances of inadequate governance of contracts, including questionable valuations of council property and land, systematic overcharging and billing for work that wasn’t carried out. The report calculates financial losses that run into millions.

In the London borough of Haringey, council leaders are planning the highest value local government-private sector contract in history. It was never presented in any manifesto on which voters could express their opinions or make their voices heard. The deal involves placing £2bn worth of council homes, property and land into a new “development vehicle” that will demolish and rebuild vast swaths of the area. This new entity will be 50% owned by private company Lendlease, a multinational property company with a turnover of billions of dollars.

Lendlease has form when it comes to contracts with the public sector. Its redevelopment of the Heygate estate in Southwark initially promised 500 social homes, that number reduced to just 82 in the final plan – only 20 have so far been built. It has made millions of pounds from its contracts with Southwark council.

Five years ago the company admitted fraud in government contracts in the US. Three years ago an Australian local government deal resulted in the authority being hundreds of millions of dollars out of pocket. In 2016, the company was named in an investigation into noncompliance with building regulations in Melbourne, Victoria, for using highly flammable cladding on a public hospital construction project, although subsequently Lendlease has offered to replace the cladding in the spring at no charge to the taxpayer, and says test panels were successfully installed in May.

In Haringey, local campaigners have found it almost impossible to examine the content of the Lendlease contract. Senior councillors have ignored the overview and scrutiny committee’s advice against the deal, and campaigners now plan to challenge it via judicial review. Although the councillors responsible for agreeing the deal may no longer be in power come next May’s local elections, its consequences will outlive many political careers. Any future council wanting to reverse the deal will be breaking the terms of the contract, and that is likely to incur financial penalties which will impact heavily on all the borough’s residents. So where is the accountability?

Less than 90 years after the right to vote was extended to all men and women in the UK regardless of wealth, the practice of outsourcing government services to private companies is rendering democracy ineffective, particularly for those most affected. While we could attempt again to insert more transparency and accountability into these opaque agreements, it may just be simpler, and more cost-effective, to return responsibility for government provision where it belongs – back in-house – with the people elected to represent us.”

“Labour criticises government hospital asset sales”

“Labour has accused the government of selling off valuable hospital assets to help plug a hole in NHS finances.

Figures from data body NHS Digital show that the amount of NHS land in England earmarked for sale has more than doubled in the past year.
Analysis commissioned by Labour found 117 sites deemed surplus were still in medical or clinical use.

Ministers said selling land would give vital funds for patient care and free up space for much needed new housing.

The government has set itself a target of selling off enough public sector land to generate £5bn worth of income by 2020.

The NHS is asked to contribute as a major property owner.

NHS property being included for sale includes hospital buildings and some ambulance stations.

But Labour said hospitals were being stripped of their assets and forced into a “fire sale”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This government’s refusal to fund the health service has seen standards of care for patients drop and NHS building and upgrade works pushed back.

“The NHS needs an urgent injection of funding to make up for years of Tory underfunding, but the answer is not a blanket sell-off of sites which are currently being used for patient care.”

The Department for Health said disposing of surplus land and buildings reduced running costs and it was right to put sites that were no longer needed to economic use.

It said any income generated would be used to improve the quality of the NHS.”