If Owl asks nicely do you think we can get the Nasty Party out? No? OK Plan B it has to be – not nicely!

“The man advising the Government on its response to the Grenfell Tower disaster argued in favour of cuts to fire service funding and against fitting sprinklers to tower blocks.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced last night that Sir Ken Knight will chair an “independent expert advisory panel” to advise on new fire safety measures.

It has been pointed out that Knight advised the Government against retrofitting sprinklers to high rise residential buildings in his report on the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, in which six people died.

He wrote: “It is not considered as practical or economically viable to make a requirement for the retrospective fitting of fire suppression systems to all current high-rise residential buildings.”

Scrapbook has also found that Knight was the author of a 2013 report which advocated £200 million worth of cuts to the fire service.

The report’s recommendations included cutting the number of firefighters. In a BBC interview at the time, Knight said:

“The protection of services is not just about jobs, it’s about redefining what we want firefighters to do, what we want the fire service to do.

“So it is right, there will be an adjustment to numbers, of jobs, of people, of people doing different jobs, but that’s right in any business, in any industry, in any area of the public sector. …”


No magic money tree for high rise blocks with failed cladding

Grenfell Tower cladding scandal could cost councils millions after Government says no guarantee of extra funding.

‘There is no way we can afford to reclad our tower blocks. If we have to find that money, it will come from other projects’

But despite emergency fire safety checks being carried out nationwide under central government direction, councils will not be reimbursed for refurbishment work carried out.

A DCLG spokesperson said there was “no guarantee” of central government funding and that it would be “up to local authorities and housing associations to pay” for the work needed to ensure residents’ safety.

The spokesperson said financial support would be considered on a “case by case” basis for those that could not afford to carry out the necessary work, but did not clarify what the criteria for that consideration would be.

The announcement was met with severe criticism from some of the councils affected, with local authorities already having their budgets severely squeezed after years of austerity measures.

Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, which is among the authorities to have discovered unsafe cladding, said “starved” councils would be forced to make cuts to other areas, including schooling, if central government did not help with costs.

“Local authorities have been starved of money over the past seven years. Our spending power has decreased,” she said. “There is no way we can afford to reclad our tower blocks. If we have to find that money, it will come from other projects, from investing in the fabric of our schools, capital investment in our infrastructure, the money has to come out of that. And it can’t really be done.

“I say absolutely, categorically that the Government should pay. If they can find £1bn to send to Northern Ireland, that gets more spending per capita than anywhere else, to buy 10 votes, then these people, living in high-rise towers, deserve better.” …


What does £1 billion buy?

Owl says: just remember, if you voted Conservative in June, these are the kind of things things you stopped us having.

“During her disastrous election campaign Theresa May kindly reminded us that there is “no magic money tree” to fix the country’s cash problems.

But this week the struggling prime minister has managed to find a spare £1billion to make a deal with the DUP to prop up her minority government.

That’s enough to fund 26,000 nurses.

Or free school meals for all primary school children for a year.

Or sprinklers on 600 tower blocks.



A billion pounds will buy 147,000 state pensions or 300,000 jobseeker’s allowances for a year.

Alternatively it could fund 2.3 million people’s disability living allowance per annum – three quarters of the total.

It would cover all diagnostic imaging – MRI scans, x-rays – for a year with a bit left over for other jobs.

Or another way would be to fund 26,000 nurses or 12,000 hospital doctors for a year.

It could pay for 167,000 hip replacements or 1.4 million hospital day cases.

A billion pounds could also pay for two flagship hospitals, such as Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital which opened in 2010.

A billion pounds would provide an 8hr course of talking therapy for 2.5m people. Or 750,000 eight-session courses of mindfulness therapy.

Or the army could pay for 40 Challenger 2 tanks. The basic production cost in 2002 of each tank was £6m.

£1bn could fund 8,500 troops.

With £1bn the government could, for a year, fund 27,000 primary or 22,000 secondary school teachers.

Or give free school meals to 2.5m children.

The average cost of a free school is £6.6 million – so that would mean about new 150 free schools.

With £1bn the government could build 16,600 new social homes or 50,000 shared ownership homes, according to Shelter.

£1bn could make universal the offer of 15 hours a week of childcare for 37 weeks of the year.”

Facts courtesy of this tweet https://twitter.com/CerianJenkins/status/879332594839687170

Just how much can you rip voters off before they reject you?

“Ask any returning or new MP what the big issues were during the election campaign and I bet most would have school cuts and police cuts top of the list. Indeed, at the beginning of the campaign, before the manifestos which changed the course of the election, I felt our school gates campaign was our strongest card and it would only be a matter of time before the Tories closed it down, as they did in 2015 on the NHS, with a promise to meet the shortfall.

Yet, with the arrogance and complacency that became the hallmark of their campaign, the Tories continued with their defensive line that school budgets were protected in cash terms (not real terms).

The Tories then adopted a similar (and wrong) strategy when police numbers took centre stage in the wake of the Manchester and London terror attacks, with Theresa May completely unable to say she’d “give the police the resources they need.”

In today’s Daily Mail, Tory MPs complain that headteachers lost them the election. Wrong. It was their own policies (and inability to change) which lost them the election. Polls after the election estimated that over three quarters of a million people changed the way they voted because of school funding cuts.

It wasn’t the fault of headteachers, nor the Chief Constables of the Met Police and Greater Manchester Police who also cited resource pressures, it was the Tory government’s own record on these issues.

The public can cope with a certain amount of “efficiencies” and necessary cost-cutting, but when their kids are in oversized classes without text books, and their hot lunches are being scrapped for a cold breakfast, or when our streets and communities become unsafe because of unsustainable cuts to the police, that’s when people get rightly very concerned.

The Tories failure to get this, is the biggest failure of their campaign and their government. It made Theresa May look remote and shifty on the campaign trail, unable to answer a straight question with a straight answer.

The Queen’s Speech shows that they’ve completely failed to learn the lessons of their election losses with no new money for schools or the police.

What an irony then that their own “magic money tree” has produced £1billion for their grubby deal with the DUP. This same billion pounds used at the start of the campaign to meet the shortfall in schools’ budgets and to give the police the resources they need with extra police officers, could have won them a majority, probably quite comfortably. Instead they are now going to have to find at least another £1billion to deal with the ever growing, and legitimate, calls of senior police officers and head teachers for adequate resources. The NUT has estimated that if English schools were given the same proportion of funding under this bung to the DUP as Northern Irish schools head teachers would receive over half a billion pounds.

The Tories key lines against Labour so effectively used in 2015 now all look in tatters, for the long term. It’s a common view that this election was a disaster for them, their dodgy deal with the DUP will only lead to more pain unless they learn the lessons of the election campaign.

Lucy Powell is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Manchester Central”


DUP will be back for more

Meanwhile the West Country deteriorates.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s £1 billion deal to prop up the Conservative government may end up costing the country far more because the DUP will be “back for more”, it emerged last night.

The Tories finally sealed a historic deal with the Northern Irish party which guarantees its 10 MPs will vote with the Government on key legislation, in return for which cash will go to Belfast for infrastructure, broadband, schools and hospitals.

But the £1billion payment – the equivalent of £33 for every taxpayer in the UK – could be only the start after DUP sources hinted that they will ask for more cash when the deal is “reviewed” in two years’ time. …”


Guardian letters on regulation, health and safety and austerity

“• The elephant in the room not mentioned in Steven Poole’s excellent article on deregulation was the de facto deregulation facilitated by the government’s savage cuts in local authority spending. Councils were inevitably going to respond to these cuts by reducing the resources available for statutory duties where cuts would be less likely to create an immediate outcry, such as regulation enforcement. It would be naive to think that a government obsessed with deregulation would not have been fully aware of this. This week’s news of tower block cladding investigations provides grim evidence of the effects of this strategy, if any were needed.
Jim Hooker
Chichester, West Sussex

• As long ago as 1840, when rapid expansion forced government at least to consider some degree of regulation of buildings, Thomas Cubitt gave evidence to the select committee on the health of towns. He warned that, without rules and regulations, builders would put up houses crammed into smaller and smaller spaces. “I am afraid a house would become like a slave ship, with the decks too close for the people to stand upright.”

Polly Toynbee was right to insist on the need for regulation (They call it useless red tape, but without it people die, 20 June). And they couldn’t, in 1840, even imagine 24 storeys high.
Enid Gauldie
Invergowrie, Perthshire

• Steven Poole provides an excellent account of the right’s professed hatred of regulation and red tape, but this ideological hostility only seems to apply to big business and the private sector.

By contrast, the last three decades have seen the public sector crushed under regulatory burdens and tied up in red tape, often in a bizarre attempt at making schools, hospitals, the police, social services and universities more efficient, business-like and accountable. Talk to most doctors, nurses, police officers, probation officers, social workers and university lecturers, and one of their biggest complaints will be the relentless increase in bureaucracy imposed by Conservative (and New Labour) governments since the 1980s.

Instead of focusing on their core activities and providing a good professional service, many frontline public sector workers are compelled to devote much of their time and energy to countless strategies, statutory frameworks, regulations, codes of practice, quality assurance procedures, government targets, action plans, form-filling, box-ticking, monitoring exercises, and preparations for the next external inspection.

A major reason for public sector workers quitting their profession, taking early retirement or suffering from stress-related illnesses is the sheer volume of bureaucracy that Conservatives (and New Labour) have imposed during the last 35 years. This bureaucracy, almost as much as underfunding, is destroying the public sector, impeding efficiency and innovation, and driving frontline staff to despair.
Pete Dorey
Bath, Somerset”