Another investigation of local authority scrutiny and accountability

Owl says: The time is coming for fewer reports and more action. As an example, council CEOs should be forced to attend such committees in public to answer for their more controversial and questionable behaviour.

“The National Audit Office is to conduct a study of local government governance and accountability that will “examine key elements of local arrangements in the light of current pressures”.

The watchdog will also examine how the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for maintaining the overall accountability system for local government, is exercising its responsibilities as the steward of the system.

The NAO said: “Council governance and accountability arrangements are key in securing value for money locally. However, these arrangements are being tested by the current financial circumstances in the sector. Increasingly difficult decisions need to be made to protect key services and ensure financial sustainability. This includes the design and delivery of large service transformation programmes and the pursuit of new sources of revenue income through commercial investments.

“Local governance and accountability arrangements provide assurance about decision making processes and support the mitigation of risk in this increasingly challenging and complex environment.”

The NAO report is expected to be published in early 2019.

A report from the Committee for Standards in Public Life on local government ethical standards is due to come out later this year.”

Exmouth Carnival cancellation – two very different stories

“Organisers of Exmouth Carnival knew as long ago as last month that the event would not go ahead this year, Devon County Council has revealed.

It was revealed over the weekend that this year’s illuminated procession through the town would not be going ahead as planned on October 13, with the organising committee blaming gas works taking place in Pound Lane.

However there are no planned gas works taking place.

And the county council has revealed that carnival organisers told them on August 12 the event would not be going ahead because they had not been able to find enough volunteers to help run the carnival.

Pound Lane will be closed between October 8 and November 9 due to planned South West Water works, but they had applied for the road closure on June 19, a full month before outline plans, including the date, of Exmouth Carnival had been mentioned to Devon County Council.

Even when the temporary traffic order to close the roads was applied for, it was incomplete and no traffic management information has since been submitted. …

.. . They added that the road closure was granted prior to any outline plans for Exmouth Carnival, including a date, had been received by them.

Initial outline plans for Exmouth Carnival to be held on October 13 were only outlined by the organiser of the event to East Devon District Council’s Safety Advisory Group on July 19, and then on July 27, the a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) to close certain roads for the event that the council received was incomplete.

To ensure public safety, traffic management information was required before the TTRO could be processed for the event, but a county council spokesman said: “The TTRO applicant has never provided that outstanding and required information.”

They added: “A meeting was held between the carnival organiser, Devon and Cornwall Police and County Council on August 12, to clarify the position of holding the carnival and the draft TTRO application.

“The organiser advised this meeting that due to the unavailability of suitable volunteers to perform the necessary traffic management functions for the event, it would no longer be going ahead in 2018.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management, said: “It is disappointing that the Exmouth Carnival will not take place this year and I hope earlier planning will ensure it will happen in 2019.”

Stuff that “growth” – Devon, Dorset and Somerset best places to retire to!

Top 10 best places for retirement

Prudential analysed data in 55 counties in England and Wales to come up with its retirement ranking for 2016 (research lag).

West Sussex
East Sussex
Isle of Wight

…”if you were looking to move to an area which has the highest number of similarly-aged denizens, Dorset is the place, with some 28% of the 422,000 people living in the county are aged over 65. …” – Which

Devon County Council to overspend [be underfunded] by £8.7m

Bit late to lay blame, Phil!

“… The council’s chief executive Phil Norrey said that he despaired at the lack of understanding [of] the treasury and that the cake that they were providing was just too small. …”

“Bombshell No Deal Brexit documents show councils fear billions in lost funding and soaring poverty”

Remember, EDDC has confirmed it has done NO Brexit planning:

“Councils have compiled a dossier of No Deal Brexit documents which warn that thousands could be left destitute in communities across the country.

Local authorities fear they may be left “unable to effectively support local communities” but they warn that the Government is failing to heed the warnings.

They say that a post Brexit downturn could see businesses up and down the country go bust.

While a series of major investment proposals have been put on hold due to Brexit.

A number of councils suggested Brexit will make desperately needed regeneration projects “unviable”.

Strikingly some of the most stark warnings come from areas which voted to Leave.

Fenland District Council rank the risk associated with a no deal Brexit on the same level as that of a natural disaster.

The area in the East of England depends on unskilled labour from Eastern Europe and 70% of people living there voted to Leave.

It produced a corporate risk register in June which gave the risk of failing to take action to prepare for Brexit a score of 25/25.

That rating is reserved for items with the potential for “catastrophic impact” and equal to the threat posed by a natural disaster.

Hackney Council raised concerns over the impact of Brexit on local job growth, with one local business claiming Brexit had “traumatised our office and the sector we cover”.

Hackney also echoed other local councils in reporting a spike in hate crimes since the 2016 referendum.

Harrow Council in London also predicted an increases in levels of poverty, homelessness and health inequalities in the Borough.

Lancashire County Council highlighted the importance of EU trade, with 62% of Lancashire’s exports (£1,876 million per year) destined for the EU market.

Around 300 councils replied to the Freedom of Information requests which were put in by campaigning group Best for Britain- making the project one of the largest bodies of research into Brexit planning undertaken so far.

Commenting on the findings, Best for Britain champion Layla Moran MP said: “These internal council documents are devastating. They show Brexit will cause tremendous damage to their ability to provide the quality public services towns and cities up and down the country so desperately need.

“The only thing scarier than these documents is the fact that some councils haven’t done them – effectively they’re walking off a cliff blindfolded.

“The finger should point directly at those extremist Brexiteers in the Tory party with a gun to the country’s head. We cannot let this sinister gang of hucksters usurp common decency and sensible politics.

“Thankfully, the fight isn’t over. We can still put a stop to this madness through a people’s vote with the option to stay in the EU. Only then will the people of this country be able to compare the devastation of Brexit – as shown in these documents – with the bespoke deal we’ve been building up over the past four decades.”

Meeting in Parliament on the failure of scrutiny of NHS changes

DCC Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee- and particularly its chair Sarah Randall Johnson – take note:

“NHS campaigners meeting with MPs to call for better scrutiny and review to stop damaging cuts

Defend the NHS campaign groups from across England are to lobby MPs at a meeting in the House of Commons on Monday 10th September.

They will share their experiences of the need to improve the process of scrutiny and review of substantial changes to NHS services, in order to stop damaging cuts and changes.

The meeting is hosted by Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury – where the District General Hospital has lost many of its key services.

Local campaign group, North Kirklees Support the NHS, will explain the risks this has created for the Dewsbury public.

Along with six other campaigns from Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, Devon, Northumbria, Dorset and Oxfordshire, the Dewsbury group will tell MPs that there is an urgent need to address serious flaws in the process whereby Councils’ scrutiny committees refer proposals for damaging NHS cuts and changes to the Secretary of State for Health and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

Christine Hyde, from North Kirklees Support the NHS, said,

“The process of referral to the Secretary of State was opaque. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel is the key body with the power to advise the Secretary of State for Health to stop and/or require changes to major NHS cuts and “reconfigurations” – but there was next to no information about how it worked.

Once we had figured that out, we naively thought public opinion would have some weight. Together with the other five local NHS protector groups, we encouraged Independent Reconfiguration Panel members to visit Dewsbury.

We were ignored.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s decision that local commissioners could sort out the failings in the hospital cuts proposals has not, for the most part, been borne out.

As the hospitals reconfiguration has been implemented, it has created huge problems for the most vulnerable groups – housebound patients, infants, children with disabilities and patients with life threatening illnesses like cancer.

The hospital changes were sold as being ‘better for patients’ but it really was all about the money and even so, the savings are recorded in a response to a Freedom of Information request as ‘nominal’.”

Campaigners will also demand political impartiality in the scrutiny and referral process.

The need for this is shown by Save Our Hospitals Devon’s observation of a discussion and decision by Devon County Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny committee, that reversed an earlier vote to refer the closure of community hospital beds in Eastern Devon to the Secretary of State.

Members of Save Our Hospitals Devon Netti Pearson and Sue Matthews said,

“The feeling among observers was certainly that the decision was a political one rather than one borne of effective and satisfactory scrutiny.”

Steven Carne from 999 Call for the NHS, the national campaign group which has convened the meeting, said,

“We are very excited about the campaign groups coming together from across the country to share their experiences of wrestling with the scrutiny and referral process.

This is key to stopping damaging NHS cuts, closures and inappropriate importation of insurance-based ‘care models’ from USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system. This provides a limited range of state-funded healthcare, on the basis of financial considerations – not clinical need, to people who can’t afford private health insurance. It is not what the NHS is about.

For the first time, campaign groups across England are pooling our knowledge and experience to lobby MPs to make this scrutiny and referrals process work better, because it definitely needs to.

And also to encourage other campaigns to get more actively involved with the process, in defence of NHS and social care services in their area.

The Department of Health guidance on health scrutiny says its primary aim is to strengthen the voice of local people in the commissioning and delivery of health services.

So it needs to make sure this happens.

This meeting is just a start. We are going to pursue this goal through thick and thin.”

EDDC has done no Brexit planning

Response to Freedom of Information request:

“Brexit impact assessments

Date submitted: 3 August 2018

Summary of request

1. Please provide any Brexit impact assessments conducted by your council, or other forms of Brexit planning. If you haven’t undertaken any Brexit impact assessments please provide other forms of Brexit planning, as well as any notes for context.

2. Please provide any emails relating to Brexit planning/the impact of Brexit.
Summary of response

1. Please provide any Brexit impact assessments conducted by your council, or other forms of Brexit planning. If you haven’t undertaken any Brexit impact assessments please provide other forms of Brexit planning, as well as any notes for context – EDDC have not carried out any Brexit impact assessments or any other forms of planning. For further information please refer your enquiry to the Brexit Resilience Group ran by Phil Norrey at Devon County Council:

Frances Williams
Executive PA to the Chief Executive & Head of Organisational Development
Devon County Council
County Hall
Topsham Road
Tel: 01392 383201 or

2. Please provide any emails relating to Brexit planning/the impact of Brexit – None

Date responded: 14 August 2018”