(Tory) Council leaders, don’t you just love ’em – not!

Current leader of EDDC, Paul Diviani, and his Tory friends on the council voted against hospital bed cuts at EDDC (which is toothless on this matter) but he then voted FOR the same cuts at Devon County Council, which has just a few gnashers, but where former EDDC Leader and DCC councillor for Whimple, Sarah Randall Johnson, silenced a legitimate opposition debate on closures using very dubious tactics against her arch-enemy (campaigner and ouster from her EDDC seat) Claire Wright:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/12/conduct-of-health-committee-members-investigated-by-devon-council-diviani-and-randall-johnson-heavily-criticised-for-behaviour/

Now the former Leader of Grenfell Tower Council joins the merry band:

The council leader who presided over the Grenfell Tower disaster offered paid “advice” on public sector cutbacks – and tried to “whitewash” his CV in the process.

Nick Paget-Brown resigned as leader of Kensington and Chelsea council after the authority’s woeful response to the deadly inferno drew widespread criticism.

He has remained a councillor but has attracted fresh ire from survivors and rival politicians after advertising his own company – NPB Consulting – on his new Linkedin profile.

The firm, of which he is managing director, offers specialist advice on “financial planning in an age of austerity” to other councils.

Paget-Brown is also accused of hurling a “final insult” to victims as he has omitted his experience as council leader from his CV’s career history, leaving a space between the end of his time as deputy leader in 2013 and founding NPB in 2017. His appointment as leader was mentioned elsewhere. …

Paget-Brown used the networking site to advertise his skills, including “policy analysis, seminars, briefings and drafting assistance for organisations working with local authorities”.

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, said: “Paget-Brown’s attempt to whitewash his career by becoming a cost-cutting consultant is the final insult.”

Moyra Samuels, co-founder of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, said: “To effectively say, ‘I’m moving on swiftly to my next project’ shows complete disdain for this community.”

At the time of his resignation, Paget-Brown said he shared responsibility for the “perceived failings” of the council. “

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/grenfell-paget-brown_uk_599a96bbe4b0e8cc855e707e

Only “perceived” note …

Does our councils promote social value when funding public services via charities?

This is i portant be ause, more and more, councils are sub-contracting their responsibilities for health and social care to charities.

Small charities that deliver public services have a problem.

The government grants that once helped to fund this work are drying up fast – their total value halved in the decade between 2004 and 2014, according to the NCVO, and has continued to drop ever since. This leaves organisations dependent on income from local council contracts, where the complex tendering process is stacked against smaller providers. At risk of being squeezed out completely, they face what the Lloyds Bank Foundation earlier this year called a “broken commissioning landscape”.

The government knows this is a problem. The House of Lords select committee on charities expressed concerns back in 2016, recommending that the government takes steps to promote commissioning based on impact and social value rather than simply on the lowest cost.

The Social Value Act, introduced in 2012, is one of very few ways in which central government can influence who is commissioned to deliver local services. It requires councils to think about the social, economic and environmental benefits of their decisions when they commission contracts above a certain value (around £170,000).

This means officials are encouraged to do more than simply favour the lowest bidders; they are invited to consider what else a provider could contribute to the area. One organisation might be committed to employing local people, for example. Another might offer to work with small community groups, or bring together existing networks of GPs, schools and others to coordinate services more effectively. The aim is to level the playing field, and enable non-profit providers – such as charities, social enterprises and community businesses – to compete with big private companies.

The government promised a review of the act back in February, something tantamount to an acknowledgement that it is not having the desired impact. Those plans have since been derailed by the snap election and the review is now promised “in due course”.

With the review still pending, we at Power to Change spoke to (pdf) community businesses across England, to find out what changes could be made to improve the situation.

The organisations we spoke to were positive about the aims of the act, and confessed that the commissioning landscape would be “much bleaker” without it. Some councils even welcomed the fact that the act gave them, as they saw it, “permission to explicitly consider social value”.

But many community businesses dismissed the act as “tokenistic”, complaining that it made little practical difference to how councils commissioned or from whom. We found limited evidence that the act actually affected their decisions about whether to tender for contracts: organisations who wanted to work with their council said they would have gone ahead regardless.

If the government wants to improve the impact of the act, our research has some simple recommendations.

Lower the financial threshold

Fairer UK charity contracts will demand long-term government support
The act only applies to local authority contracts worth more than £170,000. Very few community businesses operate at that kind of scale, particularly those committed to working only in their local area. A lower threshold would bring more small organisations into play, either as providers or, more likely, as partners.

Apply it to goods and works, not just services

The principles behind the act are very popular with government, councils and community business alike, so extending it to contracts for goods and works would be another way to introduce social value into commissioning. In his report into the act in 2015, for example, Lord Young celebrated parliament’s decision to commission bottled water for two years from a social enterprise whose profits were shared with the charity Water Aid. There is no reason this sort of innovation shouldn’t be more widespread.

Offer more support for potential providers

Providing more support and guidance, especially some highlighting successful practice, could boost take-up of the act. For commissioners, this could mean giving examples of where they have made savings or improved outcomes through commissioning with social value in mind. For small voluntary or community-led organisations, this could be examples of similar organisations that successfully engaged with the process.

Access to data on the progress and effects of the act is also limited. We recommend the introduction of an open-source, central dataset on the use of the act across local authorities in England, including monitoring data on social value outcomes.

Promote the act more

Our research found an alarming number of social enterprises and community businesses either weren’t sure how the act worked or hadn’t heard of it. The government should give the act greater publicity, targeting community groups who might want to take up the opportunity it offers. For the same reason, the guidance surrounding the act needs to be much clearer and more accessible.

Explain how social value is measured

It can be fiendishly difficult to measure social value, but it can be done – and local groups told us that councils could do more to explain how they will be assessed. This could start with commissioners consulting interested parties locally on what sort of measurements they will be using and how they will be collected, not least so that local groups can decide whether or not to apply for a contract in the first place.

Encourage councils to take risks

New charities minister, but government isn’t interested | Asheem Singh
Local authorities like to praise the not-for-profit sector for bringing more innovation and greater flexibility to social problems. But this does not always extend to commissioning decisions, which can favour large, well-known private firms over smaller groups. This may be understandable, but councils will need to overcome this risk-aversion in the future.

Make the act part of wider social change

The act requires councils only to consider social value in commissioning. But not every local authority limits itself to this: Oxfordshire county council and Somerset district council were celebrated last year by Social Enterprise UK for incorporating the act into a wider agenda for social change. This meant using the act to focus on a whole strategy to strengthen the local area, something commissioners all over the country could learn from.

Russell Hargrave works for Power to Change”

https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2017/aug/15/seven-ways-improve-social-value-act

Honiton fighting back on bed cuts

Since this article was written, it has been announced that all Honiton Hospital’s community beds will close on 28 Augusy 2017:

“A BAND of angry residents calling itself Honiton Patients Action Group says it plans to keep hospital beds in Honiton by taking direct action to stop the removal of ward beds and equipment.

The group, consisting of several local patients and their families, say they have become increasingly frustrated at the ‘failure of NEW Devon CCG to listen to the voice of local people and their representatives’.

They claim some end of life patients have already been informed by local GPs that Honiton Hospital will not be available after September and, if they need a local hospital bed, they must be prepared for an out of area transfer to Tiverton, Exmouth or Sidmouth.

A spokesperson for the action group said: “It is quite clear that NEW Devon CCG have never been prepared to fully engage in a sincere dialogue.

“There has been a failure to listen to the voice of local people and our representatives. We believe they decided in advance they would close these beds despite the fullest and proper representations that have been made by locals and their representatives, including MPs, district and town councils. We have tried sitting down and discussing it with them. We have tried large public meetings, marches, deputations and lobbying including the county council. Now we intend to sit down to stop the closure.

“We feel we have been disgracefully let down by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, by Devon County Council and their local representative Cllr Sarah Randall Johnson, and by Cllr Paul Diviani who seems to be representing no one except himself.

“While they prevaricate, the rundown of the wards has begun and it may well be more serious than they are letting on.

“With the closure of the maternity unit and privatisation of the site Honiton Hospital could be scrapped in the near future – this has happened at 45 other hospital sites.

“Meanwhile there is not a scrap of evidence the promised alternative care system is ready or will be effective.

“As patients we will not meekly accept this and at a time of our choosing we plan to take direct action to prevent the removal of beds and equipment and the stripping of wards.

“This will be a peaceful, non-violent, direct action to prevent contractors gaining access to remove the beds and equipment using whatever peaceful methods we can.

“We are also contacting health trade unions to set up a picket line. We shall invite nurses, doctors and local health groups to join in solidarity, along with Neil Parish MP who claimed he would ‘hold feet to the fire’ to stop the closure. Our MP has become very quiet but this is his last chance to show solidarity.

“When we have finalised our plans we hope that local people and families, all of whom could potentially require these beds in future, will join us to keep up the action as long as we can. We need help and support to organise and publicise this if we are to be effective.

“It is the last real chance for Honiton Hospital and our community and we appeal to everyone to search their conscience.

“While we have life and the will to fight ‘They Shall Not Pass’.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/honiton-patients-group-promises-direct-action/

“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.”

http://m.devonlive.com/conduct-of-health-committee-members-investigated-by-devon-council/story-30478465-detail/story.html

“Taxpayers still footing the bill for non-existent ‘ghost’ schools locked into £100m ‘PFI swindle’ “

Imagine how this money could benefit current pupils – and we are powerless to stop these payments:

“Taxpayers will foot a bill of over £100 million over the next two decades for “ghost” schools, as local authorities are held to ransom over outstanding Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts.

The Sunday Telegraph has identified schools across the country, built under the Government’s PFI scheme, which closed down just a few years after opening due to declining pupil numbers, poor performance or structural flaws.

But local authorities must continue to pay until the end of the contract – amounting to millions of pounds for empty or demolished buildings.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/29/taxpayers-still-footing-bill-non-existent-ghost-schools-locked/