Conservative county councils warn they can’t afford “dementia tax”

“Conservative council leaders have warned that county councils cannot afford to be hit by a £308m rise in care home costs if controversial social care plans dubbed the “dementia tax” go ahead.

Tory-dominated shire councils have warned they cannot afford the extra burden of the manifesto proposal that would offer state support to people with assets of £100,000 or less – a sharp increase on the current £23,250.

The County Councils Network (CCN), which represents the 37 county councils, said new analysis showed raising the threshold would push far more people into state care than local authorities could fund under current budgets. …”

Very healthy salaries to promote health in Cranbrook (unfortunately, nowhere else)

£53,152 – £57,861 pro rata for 14 hours per week

Devon County Council are recruiting for a Programme Director and Programme Manager to work on the Cranbrook Healthy Town project. Both posts are part time, fixed term for 18 months.

Applications are welcome from people with experience of working in health care, commissioning, public health, local government and /or voluntary sector and this includes those who are interested in the posts as a secondment opportunity.

The Programme Director post will ensure the successful delivery of the Cranbrook Healthy New Town programme outcomes through effective leadership and dynamic partnership working. Working to the Executive Group, the Programme Director will secure commitment to a shared vision and set a clear direction for the second phase of the programme. The Programme Director will ensure that partner engagement and contributions translate into positive programme outcomes. Engaging and collaborating with relevant business partners at strategic level to stimulate innovation within the programme is a priority for this post. Year three funding for the Cranbrook Healthy New Town programme from NHS England is contingent upon successful delivery of year two outcomes.

This is a temporary post offered for 18 months.

Devon County Council will be hosting this post on behalf of the Cranbrook Healthy New Town Executive Group.

You will be expected to travel within Devon and across England to engage fully with national programme events, which may be held in London or at any of the other nine demonstrator sites.”

DCC Tories torpedo Devon NHS

Yesterday the Conservative Party machine defeated my final attempt to get Devon County Council to take action over the closure of community hospitals beds. My motion, seconded by Claire Wright, asked the Health Scrutiny Committee to look again at the issues it failed to scrutinise properly in July, and asked the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Health to alert him to our concern about hospital beds. I highlighted widespread NHS concern that there will be too few beds if there is a flu epidemic this winter. My speech is available here and you can watch it and the debate in the webcast (beginning at 2.18).

The Tory response was an amendment, moved by the leader, John Hart, which took the guts out of the motion. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, it said that Health Scrutiny had ‘extensively considered the issues and concerns from members of the public, elected members and others, including medical professionals, all matters relating to the closure of some community hospital beds in Honiton, Okehampton, Seaton and Whipton.’

Instead of my proposal to write to the Secretary about the beds closures, the amendment proposed to write ‘seeking reassurance that appropriate funding is provided by government to deliver the necessary health and social care services in Devon’. Not a dicky bird to the minister about community hospital beds, the whole point of the debate.

In reply I told the Council (at 3.10) that if they passed this amendment, they would be ignoring East Devon opinion just like Kensington & Chelsea Council ignored the residents of Grenfell Tower; and the Conservative Group as a whole would have made itself responsible for the failure to properly scrutinise the hospital bed closures.

The result

Although they were not formally whipped, 40 Tories fell dutifully in line to support the amendment. There were 16 votes against (these were Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent and Green members, together with only one Conservative, Ian Hall of Axminster).

Claire made a valiant attempt to put some guts back into the motion, with another amendment – but the Tory machine squashed that too.

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

How much do PFI contracts cost DCC?

“A Labour pledge to bring “wasteful” PFI contracts back in the public sector would cost a massive £671m in Devon, it has been revealed.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the annual party conference last month the contracts were set to cost the taxpayer £200bn over coming decades and private companies were making “huge profits”.

The cost to the county for all the buildings, such as schools, hospitals armed forces’ accommodation, funded by private finance initiatives was estimated to be around £2.4bn just four years ago.

Newly released figures by the county council show that Exeter Schools would cost £210m to buy out with £322m for an energy for waste (EFW) plant and £139m for a Devonport EFW scheme. …

… Private companies carry out the construction work and maintenance, in exchange for regular payments from the taxpayer.

It has proved controversial with criticisms that it is overly generous to the private contractors.

Some schools, including in Exeter, have said the quality of parts of their new buildings have been poor.

Other public bodies, such as hospitals, have complained that large debt repayments, over long periods of time, make it difficult for them to balance their books.

However, defenders of PFI said it provided new infrastructure which would otherwise be unaffordable.

The biggest margin on a project in Devon came with a deal for new accommodation for services’ personnel at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

Its estimated cost of £554m, which will also include service and maintenance charges, is more than 12 times the initial building price. …

… Devon County Council said it could not “accurately” estimate the cost of terminating contracts without going into negotiations.

Cabinet member for finance John Clatworthy said the schools PFI contract in 2005/6 was £348m.

He wrote: “Set against this was a grant of £248m that would be received from central government – of the balance, £75m would be met from the delegated schools budget and the remainder (£75m) would be met by the council.”

DCC Tories fail, yet again, to do the right thing on our NHS

“Martin Shaw and Claire Wright were voted down… [at today’s health scrutiny committee, see below] shame on Devon County Council! Every single Tory Councillor with the exception of one voted against Martin’s motion – they put party politics above their communities interests once again.
People need to know what they did.”

Ind. East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw’s speech to DCC committee today

“Speech by County Councillor Martin Shaw (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton and Colyton), moving to send the issue back to Health Scrutiny, at Devon County Council, 5 October 2017:

“I represent a large division in East Devon. 2 years ago Seaton, Axminster and Honiton hospitals had in-patient beds, universally appreciated by patients & doctors, and supported by local communities. Today large parts of each hospital lie empty – nurses and other staff are dispersed – volunteers have been told they are no longer needed. We don’t even know whether the buildings will survive as centres of health services or be sold off.

This is the biggest crisis East Devon & Okehampton have faced in many years. Local communities have been united in their opposition; councillors of all parties have opposed the decisions.

After a biased consultation and flawed, unjust decisions, we looked to the Health Scrutiny Committee to hold NEW Devon CCG to account, and they have failed us. My proposal today is not a motion of NO confidence in any councillor or party. It is a motion to RESTORE confidence in this Council’s ability to represent Devon communities and stand up for their interests.

The tragedy is that Health Scrutiny started sensibly by asking the CCG 14 questions, in order to decide whether it should use its legal power to refer their decision. This proposal had cross-party backing, with the support of more Conservatives than members of any other party. A minority of the committee were, however, determined from the beginning to disregard public concern and voted not even to ask the questions.

The CCG replied to the questions but the Committee found their answers inadequate and wrote back detailing areas of concern. So far so good – a model of scrutiny. But things started to go wrong when the issue came to the new Health & Adult Care committee in June. The new Chair argued that members were insufficiently experienced to decide the issue and recommended delaying a decision until September 21st. It escaped no one’s notice that this was after the date given for permanent closure of the beds. It was seen as an attempt to prevent effective scrutiny.

Fortunately, the Committee agreed instead to a special meeting in July. For this meeting, the County Solicitor prepared a guidance paper outlining 6 issues outstanding with the CCG. Councillor Ian Hall, Councillor Mike Allen who is a Conservative District councillor, and others joined me in pressed the local communities’ case.

However the CCG gave a long powerpoint presentation which simply did not address most of the 6 issues, and before any debate could take place, Councillor Gilbert proposed there be no referral. In case anyone believed that he still wanted to scrutinise the issues, he made a point of emphasising that not referring would ‘save the committee a huge amount of work ’.

Councillor Diviani then told the committee that referral would be a waste of time, because ‘attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive’.

The Committee never discussed most of the remaining issues that the guidance paper had identified. By my reckoning, only 1 out of 6 was more or less satisfactorily addressed. Let me mention just one that wasn’t, the surprise decision to close Seaton’s beds, removing all provision from the Axe Valley. Neither the CCG nor any member gave any reason for believing this decision was justified – yet the committee voted for it anyway and the empty wards of Seaton hospital are the consequence.

There was no broad support for the anti-scrutiny motion: it was supported only by 7-6 ; 4 members abstained or were absent. The meeting was widely seen as an abdication of scrutiny. The Standards Committee says it ‘may not reflect well on the Council as a whole’. I would go further: it did not reflect well on this Council.

Since then, new evidence has shown that cutting beds to the bone brings great risks. The Head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has called for more beds to be urgently made available this winter in face of a possible flu epidemic. Expert bodies like the Kings Fund, the College of Emergency Medicine and NHS Providers have backed the judgement that the NHS is cutting too far, too fast. These are new reasons to question the CCG’s plans.

This motion therefore proposes that

The Scrutiny Committee should look again at the issues which were not satisfactorily addressed.
The Council should tell the Secretary of State that the CCG’s decisions and the wider STP process have aroused great feeling in Devon, that people are not happy with either the decisions or the way they were made , and we are worried that we simply won’t have enough beds for the coming winter.
Finally, following a more constructive Health Scrutiny meeting on 21st September, this motion welcomes the Committee’s help in securing community hospital buildings.
Some of you may still wonder if Cllr Diviani was right, and all these proposals will be a waste of time. The answer to this is given in a recent letter from the Secretary’s own office: ‘As you may know,’ it says, ‘contested service changes can be referred to the Secretary of State, who then takes advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.’ So a referral is not something the minister deals with personally; it is a legally defined procedure.

The letter continues, ‘However, as you are aware, Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee … passed a motion … in favour of not referring the CCG’s decision to the Secretary of State.’ Cllr Diviani suggested that referral was pointless because of the minister’s opinions: the minister’s office implies it WOULD be meaningful, if only Devon would take action.

I ask you to restore this Council’s reputation and take the action which it is within your power to take, even at this late date, to save our community hospital beds.”

DCC Ind. East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw will try again to get DCC to see sense on bed closures

Tomorrow (Thursday) Devon County Council will discuss a new call to review the controversial closure of beds in community hospitals in Honiton, Okehampton, Seaton and Whipton.

I have been told my motion will be discussed, rather than referred to Cabinet as is normal with most motions.

The motion proposes to redress the widely perceived failure of the Health Scrutiny Committee to properly scrutinise NEW Devon CCG’s decisions, which has allowed the CCG to go ahead with the closures.

The motion asks Health Scrutiny, which alone has legal power to refer the decision, to look again the outstanding issues, while at the same time committing the Council to alerting the Secretary of State to the disquiet in the County over the issue.

The motion also highlights the urgent call by Simon Stevens, Head of the NHS in England, to free up more hospital beds in view of the danger of an extreme flu season this winter.

I will issue the text of my speech tomorrow morning.

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