Being a councillor: a public service or a feather-bedded job?

“The ceremonial head of a cash-strapped council is set to be given a £2,500 pay rise just weeks after a decision to shut the county’s youth clubs.

A meeting of Gwynedd council’s democratic services committee today recommended that the council chair should see their pay upgraded to “band 1” status.

The role – known in some areas as the county mayor – changes hands every 12 months and involves presiding over full council meetings and representing the authority at various functions in a civic capacity.

At present, the holder is afforded “band 2” status, meaning they would receive £21,800 in 2018/19.

But, if Gwynedd’s full council accepts the committee’s recommendation when it meets on May 3, the chair’s pay will increase to £24,300.

The committee’s findings come just a month after the authority decided to introduce a new youth service model, which will see all 39 existing youth clubs replaced by a single county-wide offering in a bid to save £270,000.

Cllr Charles Wyn Jones, who proposed the pay rise during this morning’s meeting, said: “Having fulfilled the role myself, I know that the council chair usually has to attend at least 40 functions a year, many of which take place in the daytime.

“I feel the title holder should be paid more than the committee chairs, simply due to the number of hours they have to put into the role.

“I know the role only lasts a year, but it involves putting in many hours.”

Cllr Dewi Owen, also a former council chair, echoed his sentiments: “Living in Aberdyfi and having to travel to functions in places such as Bangor, it meant having to stay over in bed and breakfasts and many hours of travel time in order to do the job properly.”

The new council chair, succeeding Cllr Annwen Daniels, will be selected by county councillors next month.

Meanwhile, all 75 Gwynedd councillors will receive a £200 pay rise to £13,600 a year, in line with the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales’ (IRPW) findings for the 22 Welsh authorities.

Questioning the panel’s findings, Menai Bangor councillor Catrin Wager said: “I do feel that at a time when cuts are being made, an extra £200 for every member is questionable.

“Is there anything we can do apart from accept this?”

In response, democratic services manager Vera Jones confirmed that members could choose to waive the automatic pay rise by informing the authority in writing.

There will be no change in the salaries of the council leader and deputy, which will remain at £48,300 and £33,800 respectively.

Members of the cabinet will be paid £29,300 a year, and £22,300 for committee chairs.

The final decision on member salaries will be formally rubber stamped during Gwynedd’s full council meeting on May 3.”

https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/gwynedd-council-pay-rise-chair-14524343

Claire Wright and Martin Shaw fighting heroically for our NHS

Thank heavens we have Claire Wright and Martin Shaw fighting so hard for our NHS on a daily basis and don’t have to leave the fight to Swire, Diviani, Sarah Randall-Johnson and East Devon Tories – or there would be no fight at all!!!

Holding NHS Property Services to account:
http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/nhs_property_services_and_nhs_managers_requested_to_fully_engage_over_commu

Getting those winter performance figures that Randall-Johnson was happy to wait months for:
http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/new_devon_ccg_to_provide_performance_winter_pressures_reports_within_days

Social care not working:
http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/latest_devon_social_care_survey_reveals_concerns_among_people_about_service

Ambulance service under intense pressure due to cost-cutting:
http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/devon_county_council_health_scrutiny_committee_records_its_concerns_over_am

Decisions on community hospitals:
Health Scrutiny hears there will be no precipitate decisions on community hospitals – local conversations with CCG and RD&E offer chance to shape ‘place-based health systems’ around towns

Declining performance:
Devon’s health system’s declining performance over last 12 months – and Health Scrutiny still waiting for winter crisis evidence

Another council refers its hospital closure to Secretary of State

“The future of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital is going to the top, after councillors voted to refer the matter to the Health Secretary.

After the joint executive board of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last month voted unanimously in favour of permanently closing the inpatient ward and shaping the existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital, the proposed closure of the 12 beds was discussed by Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee this morning.

And now that closure is on hold and the final decision rests with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The aim of today’s meeting was to decide if the consultation with the committee had been adequate; if the committee felt the proposal would not be in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland; and therefore it it had sufficient evidence of these concerns to make a referral to the Secretary of State for Health. And as part of her statement to members, Katie Scott, from the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group, reflected on this first issue.

“Surely at all stages the scrutiny committee should have been consulted? It seems to us that you have been ignored,” she said. “I believe today is the first opportunity in over 14 months for the committee to fully examine the proposal to take away our beds.”

She also questioned the reasons put forward by the CCG for the proposed closure – the alleged savings, bed underuse and the drive to treat people in their own homes – claiming all are flawed, as well as saying the consultation has been ‘defective’.

However, Stephen Young, Northumberland CCG’s strategic head of corporate affairs, outlined the lengthy process of consultation, including with the committee, and explained that it was made clear to councillors that there was no local support for the proposed closure. He added: “We believe there’s alternative, suitable provision in the area.” His colleague, Dr Alistair Blair, the clinical chairman, set out the clinical reasons behind the proposed closure, which included the fall in bed occupancy and the wider national context around more care being provided at home and why this was beneficial.

He added that they had been monitoring the impact on healthcare services elsewhere in Northumberland for 12 months while the ward has been shut and there have been no adverse consequences. “We understand that this does not have local support but we have to look at the evidence base,” Dr Blair said. “We hope the Health and Wellbeing Centre will benefit more local people.”

One local who benefitted from the ward prior to its closure was Coun Steven Bridgett’s grandmother – the care she received at the hospital prior to her death in 2012 was the focus of an emotional address by the local ward member: “Gran was so well looked after and cared for that you would forget that she was 91 and had most of her body failing her.”

It was his statement which probably resonated most with the Rothbury residents who had filled the council chamber at County Hall in Morpeth. “We are no more than numbers on paper to the CCG,” he said. Turning their attention to the three questions mentioned above, a majority of the committee members considered that the consultation with the committee had not been adequate as the preferred option for consultation, ie, the closure of the ward and the creation of a Health and Wellbeing Centre, was decided and the consultation started before being brought to the scrutiny committee, albeit the CCG brought the matter to the first available meeting once that decision was taken.

A majority of the councillors also felt that whether the proposal was in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland could not be fully assessed as it had not been made clear exactly what the Health and Wellbeing Centre will be and there were also questions over the robustness of the data in relation to future-proofing and knock-on impacts in the rest of the county.

Therefore, following around half-an-hour spent thrashing out their reasons amid advice from the council’s senior legal officer, members voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. In each case, members voted by five votes to two with one abstention.”

http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/future-of-rothbury-hospital-ward-goes-to-secretary-of-state-1-8808912

Bed closures at Honiton and Seaton – the final stitch-up by Tory Councillors

Councillor Martin Shaw (EDA, Colyton and Seaton) reports:

[Names of those voters have been amended – it does not affect the result]

“The 7 councillors who voted NOT to refer the decision to close Honiton and Seaton hospital beds were:

Sarah Randall-Johnson
Paul Diviani (Leader of East Devon District Council, representing Devon district councils), and county councillors
Richard Scott (Exmouth),
Rufus Gilbert,
Sylvia Russell,
Paul Crabb and
Ron Peart.

The 6 councillors who voted against this motion, i.e. to refer the decision, were Claire Wright (Otter Valley, Independent), Brian Greenslade and Nick Way (Liberal Democrat), Hilary Ackland and Carol Whitton (Labour) and Phil Twiss (Honiton, Conservative).

Jeremy Yabsley (Conservative) abstained as did John Berry. Two other Tories,
Jeffrey Trail (Exmouth) and
Philip Sanders, gave their apologies.

Six public speakers, Cllr Roger Giles (Chair of East Devon’s Scrutiny Committee), Paul Arnott (Colyton), Cllr Jan Goffey (Mayor of Okehampton), Cllr Mike Allen, Bob Sturtivant and Stephen Craddock (Honiton), spoke eloquently against the closures for two and a half minutes each. County Councillor Ian Hall (Axminster) and I also addressed the committee for five minutes each.

Three representatives of NEW Devon CCG and the RD&E (who run the hospitals and are working with the CCG) were then allowed to make a very lengthy Powerpoint presentation and contribute freely to the discussion – which none of the public speakers, Ian Hall or I were allowed to do.

Claire Wright had prepared a detailed motion to refer the closures and had submitted it to the Chair before the meeting. However when debate began, Cllr Randall Johnson chose not to call Claire to speak but called Rufus Gilbert who immediately proposed the motion not to refer, which was quickly seconded by Sylvia Russell.

This blatant manoeuvre by the Chair meant that the committee never considered point by point, as Claire’s motion would have required it to, the 14 questions on which it had asked the CCG to satisfy it. Despite an excellent report from Hilary Ackland which concluded that the CCG had failed to convince, the Committee basically abdicated its scrutiny role and blocked a referral without discussing most of the objections which we had raised.

Claire and I are planning to complain about the way the meeting was handled. If you want to watch it, it’s online at

https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/293466.

Thank you all for your support for the hospitals over the last 9 months. Be assured, however, that this is not the end of the matter, since the CCG and RD&E are both developing ‘estates strategies’ which will centre on what to do with space freed up by the closures. “

Seaton’s new County councillor starts crowdfund £20,000 by Monday to try to save Its hospital, with £1000 personal initial donation

“‘THE newly elected county councillor for Seaton and Colyton, Martin Shaw, has launched a last ditch crowdfunding appeal to support a judicial review of the decision to close Seaton Hospital beds – and has backed it with a £1,000 of his own cash.

The appeal comes just days after Seaton Town Council ruled out its support for such a bid.

Councillor Shaw, who was elected last Thursday, said: “Solicitors are preparing a letter before action to send to the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group by the end of this week, giving the case why their decision-making was flawed.

“However Seaton Town Council has decided that it cannot underwrite the costs of this first stage of judicial review.

“The Hospital League of Friends are prevented by their constitution from underwriting them, but they have opened a special bank account and a BT MyDonate site to collect funds for a review.

Monday deadline

“I have therefore decided to launch an urgent appeal to raise the £20,000 needed to fund this first stage of a review. I am asking everyone in the area who cares about the hospital keeping its beds to donate this weekend, so that I can go to the solicitors on Monday morning and say that we have the funds to take this forward.

“I am putting in £1,000 of my own money and I will use the rest of my councillor’s allowance of £10,000 to underwrite this campaign while donations come in.

“However we need donations, large and small, in the next 48 hours, if we are going to be able to proceed on Monday.”

The Seaton Hospital and District League of Friends fundraising site is at

https://mydonate.bt.com/donation/start.html?charity=129867

and in order to donate for judicial review, people must write ‘judicial review’ in the ‘personalise your donation’ box.

It is also important that people email Cllr Shaw cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com to inform him of their donation, so that he knows how much money has been raised.

The League of Friends has said that if money is donated which is not used for judicial review, donors will have the option of having their money returned, or donating it to support the work of the hospital.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/new-county-councillors-crowdfunding-bid-hospital-beds-judicial-review/

Election purdah: expect LOTS of good news and promises next week!

Purdah for the local county council elections (and possibly a General Election if rumours are to be believed) will begin on Monday 27 March 2017. Be aware NO council (not just the county council) can ignore purdah.

You can find a useful guide here:

http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/6869714/L15-91+Unpacking+Purdah_04.pdf/c80978b9-dc0b-4eee-9f81-49bd47afeb2d

From this guide:

“This means that:

• In general you (this means councils and councillors) should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters (an exception being situations covered by legislation or regulations directing publication of information for explanatory purposes).
• Particular care should be taken during the pre-election period to abide by the Act.
• Consider suspending the hosting of third party material or closing public forums if these are likely to breach the codes of practice.
• Do not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views on proposals in a way which identifies them with individual councillors or groups of councillors.
• Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published unless expressly authorised by statute.
• You are allowed to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

Although this new code supersedes the previous versions and may seem less specific, in practice your conduct should be similar to previous elections.
What this means in practice:

Publicity is deemed as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.”

The first question to ask is ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test. When making your decision, you should consider the following:

You should not:
• produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial
• make references to individual politicians or groups in press releases
arrange proactive media or events involving candidates
• issue photographs which include candidates
• supply council photographs or other materials to councillors or political group staff unless you have verified that they will not be used for campaigning purposes
• continue hosting third party blogs or e-communications
• help with national political visits (as this would involve using public money to support a particular candidate or party). These should be organised by political parties with no cost or resource implications for the council.

You should also think carefully before you:
• Continue to run campaign material to support your own local campaigns. If the campaign is already running and is non-controversial (for example, on issues like recycling or foster care) and would be a waste of public money to cancel or postpone them, then continue. However, you should always think carefully if a campaign could be deemed likely to influence the outcome of the election and you should not use councillors in press releases and events in pre-election periods. In such cases you should stop or defer them. An example might be a campaign on an issue which has been subject of local political debate and/or disagreement.
• Launch any new consultations. Unless it is a statutory duty, don’t start any new consultations or publish report Findings from consultation exercises, which could be politically sensitive.

and

Council Notice Boards:

Councils are required to publicise details of the election and how to register to vote. Material relating to wider political issues should not be posted on of official notice boards which may be seen by members of the public. This includes publicity issued by, or on behalf of, a trade union.”

Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright does what ALL our local MPs failed to do

IF ONLY SHE HAD BECOME OUR MP! DIVIANI AGAIN VOTED AGAINST REASSESSMENT OF THE PLANS! LET’S MAKE SURE CLAIRE WRIGHT IS RE-ELECTED AS DCC COUNCILLOR IN MAY, ALONG WITH ANY OTHER TRULY INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES – AND FEEL VERY GRATEFUL THAT DIVIANI IS NOT STANDING FOR DCC AGAIN!

A decision to halve the remaining hospital beds in Eastern Devon will be referred to the Secretary of State for Health, unless a raft of assurances are provided.

A review of all community hospital bed closures across Devon since 2014, will also take place, including examining the role of social care.

I made the proposal at Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee this afternoon and it was voted through by seven votes to five.

Last week, Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) made a decision to close 71 beds at Whipton, Okehampton, Honiton and Seaton Hospitals, retaining beds at Exmouth, Tiverton and Sidmouth.

Their proposal had previously been to retain beds at Seaton and close beds at Sidmouth, but the CCG’s governing body decided to shut beds at Seaton instead of Sidmouth for demographic reasons.

Following today’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting 14 assurances will now need to be provided by the CCG on its decision within 28 days, which the committee will examine in its new form after the elections on 4 May.

If the assurances are insufficient or inadequate, the decision to close 72 beds will be referred to the Secretary of State for Health.

From my own personal perspective it seemed to me that the four members of the CCG – Laura Nicholas – Director of Strategy, Rob Sainsbury – chief operating officer, Janet Fitzgerald – chief officer, and Dr Simon Kerr – GP from Ottery St Mary, who attended today were trying to convince the committee that the care at home system was going to work, but it was clear that they themselves had doubts.

At one point Laura Nicholas said: “We are very cautiously optimistic that the new model of care can be implemented.”

I asked the following questions:
– How much money will be saved? Answer: Between £2 and £5m

– How many more staff will you need? Answer: This will be variable and it depends. We are working these issues through (I had previously been told by the CCG chair, Tim Burke, that there may be around double the number of staff required for the new care at home scheme)

– How many objections were there out of the more than 2000 consultation responses received?
Answer: Cannot say. I then asked about an approximate percentage, but this couldn’t be given either.

– When are you going to implement the bed cuts? Answer: We don’t know yet. When we are confident that the new model of care is ready

– Sir Simon Stevens announcement last week about NHS England ensuring that health trusts must demonstrate that sufficient alternative provision is there before any future bed cuts are made. Are you confident that if this guidance was in place now you would be able to meet it? Answer: We will ensure the new model of care is ready before any bed cuts are made.

But… the decision to close the beds has already been made!

Chairman, Richard Westlake asked about the future of hospitals that would have their beds removed. But was told there was no hospital buildings identified for closure. It was that the beds were being removed.

Yet in the CCG papers I read last autumn it made it very clear that some hospital buildings would be deemed surplus to requirements and be sold.

Of course NHS Property Services now owns all community hospital buildings in the Eastern Devon area and is already charging its hefty commercial rents ……

We heard from three members of the public including Paul Hayward, Mayor of Axminster, who is concerned about the decision to close beds at Seaton, which will affect Axminster residents, who lost their beds at the same time as Ottery’s in 2015.

We also heard from Cllr Jack Rowland from Seaton Town Council who argued similar points to Paul Hayward and Philip Wearne, a north Devon hospital services campaigner.

Cllr Hayward had carried out some research and found that Devon County Council’s own statistics on demographics were at odds with those published by NEW Devon CCG last week to justify keeping Sidmouth’s beds open instead of Seaton’s.

He and Cllr Rowland also expressed concerns about travel distances to the nearest community hospital.

And to complicate matters, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has just announced temporary closure of all Holsworthy Hospital’s beds due to staffing shortages and apparent low bed occupancy levels.

The difficulty is that during the consultation the CCG had advised that people from the Okehampton area would be referred to Holsworthy Hospital for inpatient care. Something that they cannot now deliver on.

Cllr Barry Parsons made a compelling case for why this decision was quite wrong and how upset the people of Holsworthy are.

Cllr Kevin Ball from Okehampton expressed his dissatisfaction with the consultation process which he viewed as unfair and how the loss of Holsworthy Hospital’s beds will negatively affect any alternative provision in Okehampton.

The CCG said they would do further work in Okehampton on this.

Caroline Chugg proposed that the committee should recommend no bed closures should take place until there was sufficient alternative provision in place.

Finally, the CCG’s own health scrutiny paperwork admitted that this following damning staff response was a theme (p71): – http://democracy.devon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=1981&Ver=4

“The potential financial savings of the proposed changes have not been clearly established and the actual costs of replacing hospital based care with community based care are not even estimated. The existing hospital nursing staff have not been consulted on their willingness to transfer to a very different pattern of working. Many of them are very concerned about the professional vulnerability that this presents and, at a time when there are many vacancies both in the NHS and through agencies, they are not likely to simply accept a situation that they do not see as professionally or personally secure.

“ Assurance was given that no hospital beds will be closed before the staff are in place for Care at Home. But assurance also needs to be given to local hospitals now, potentially blighted, to stay open, or staff will walk.”

Managers say that bed closures will affect only 20 patients a week, but this is over 1000 patients a year plus their visitors who may need to travel further to visit.

I have to say that I cannot fully blame NEW Devon CCG for this hopelessly rushed and poorly thought out decision. They are under the cosh of the government’s Success Regime as one of three most financially challenged health areas in the country.

The Success Regime exists as a hatchet programme of cuts because of the projected deficit of £384m by 2020/21.

My understanding is that this deficit is largely caused by a growing elderly population in Devon with complex health needs, combined with a reduction in the annual growth funding from government, which has dropped from around six per cent to around 1 per cent in the past seven years.

My proposal was put to the vote and was immediately objected to by Cllr Jerry Brook, who claimed it was ‘pre-determined’ because I had typed it out and given it to officers beforehand.

He was reminded by the chairman that this was common practice.

The votes were seven votes to five in favour. Voting in favour (I believe) were: Me, Caroline Chugg, Andy Boyd, Emma Morse, Brian Greenslade, Robin Julian and George Gribble.

Voting against (I believe) were: Jerry Brook, Paul Diviani, Chris Clarence, Debo Sellis and Rufus Gilbert.

The issue will be pursued again after the elections on 4 May.

Here is the motion (it was altered in committee so may appear slightly differently in the minutes but this is the essence):

This committee:

1) Objects to the decision by NEW Devon CCG to reduce the number of community hospital beds in Eastern Devon from 143 to 72

2) Resolves to refer the decision to the Secretary of State for Health on the following grounds if adequate assurances are not given on the points below:

a) It is not in the in the interests of the health service in the area
b) The consultation is flawed

3) Agrees to conduct a review of community hospital bed closures made across Devon since 2014 to establish the effectiveness of the replacement home care, including examining the role of social care

Notes relating to 2 above:
– That no beds are closed before there is sufficient alternative provision

– There is no clear explanation of what care at home will look like or work and this model has frequently been mixed up with Hospital at Home which is entirely different

– There may not be adequate care available in people’s homes, given the staffing shortages in the NHS, and the significant difficulties in adult social care

– That Hospiscare reported in its consultation response to the bed closure proposals that during 2015 managers reported 58 incidents to the CCG where the breakdown of social care packages for people at end of life had caused distress. All of these people had wanted to be cared for at home

– There are no clear answers on how many more staff are required to make the new model of care work. And that there are shortages in many health professional disciplines

– Despite a significant budget deficit, there is no clear financial saving to be made. In fact once the new model of care is in place the savings may be extremely small

– That there is no clear plan on the future of hospital buildings that have lost their beds and are now in the ownership of NHS Property Services

– The new government direction that will come into effect next month which mean health trusts will need to prove that there is sufficient alternative provision before any beds close

– Okehampton and Honiton Hospitals were excluded from the consultation process

– The temporary closure of Holsworthy Hospital beds which is where Okehampton patients were to be referred

– The ongoing and significant pressure on the RD&E hospital beds and difficulty with discharge

– Doubt over the soundness of the data relating to the decision retain Sidmouth Hospital’s beds over Seaton’s

– Staff appear to be opposed to the plans

– Closure of many care homes

The link to the webcast is here – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/268434

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/hospital_bed_cuts_to_be_referred_to_secretary_of_state_for_health_unless_ra

Hundreds protest over NHS cuts

“Protesters were seen marching in red lines from every direction along Sidwell Street, Fore Street, Queen Street, North Street, South Street, and Paris Street.

Protesters then gathered in Bedford Square where the speeches began.”

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/hundreds-of-people-attend-protest-in-exeter-to-stop-nhs-cuts/story-29954867-detail/story.html

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It included a rousing speech by DCC councillor Claire Wright: