“Public Accounts Committee calls for ‘step change’ in transparency in local public bodies”

“There is a need for a step change in transparency by local public bodies and particularly those in the NHS, MPs have said.

In a report, Auditing local government, the Public Accounts Committee noted that in 2017-18, auditors found that more than 1 in 5 local public bodies did not have proper arrangements in place to secure value for money for taxpayers.

“The numbers are worst for local NHS bodies such as clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts, where 38% did not have proper arrangements,” it said.

The MPs added that some local bodies were not putting enough information in the public domain about their performance, including reports from their external auditors.

The report called on central government departments to make clear their expectations, “not only for what is made publicly available, but also for making the information accessible to users and so helping citizens to hold local bodies to account”.

The PAC said there appeared to be few consequences for those local bodies who did not take auditors’ concerns seriously and address them promptly. “Even where local auditors use their additional reporting powers to highlight failings, this does not always lead to the bodies taking immediate action.”

The report also recorded the MPs’ concern that, as partnership working becomes more complex, accountability arrangements will be weakened, and the performance of individual local bodies will become less transparent.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “Taxpayers must be assured that their money is well-spent but in too many cases local bodies cannot properly safeguard value. Particularly concerning are NHS bodies such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts: last year almost two in five did not have adequate arrangements.

“As we reported last week, many CCGs are underperforming and this must improve as they take on responsibility for commissioning services across larger populations.”

Hillier added: “It is vital that local bodies take auditors’ concerns seriously, address them swiftly and ensure meaningful information on performance is made accessible to the public.

“Our report sets out ways central government can help to drive improvements at local level and we urge it to respond positively to our recommendations.” …”

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/governance/396-governance-news/40088-public-accounts-committee-calls-for-step-change-in-transparency-in-local-public-bodies

Bojo says historic child abuse inquiries are a waste of money (he wasted at least £940m as London Mayor)

Maybe because several abusers appear to have been MPs or others (still) in power? And he’s the man whose failed Mayor of London projects cost an estimated £940 million!

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/18/bridge-940m-bill-boris-johnsons-mayora-vanity-projects-garden-bridge-routemaster-bus

“Boris Johnson has declared money spent on non-recent child abuse investigations had been “spaffed up a wall”, prompting immediate criticism from Labour for making reckless and inappropriate comments.

The current favourite to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader was arguing police time and resources were being wasted on crimes committed years ago as he was questioned on an LBC radio phone-in on Wednesday morning.

But he went on to complain: “And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this malarkey.

“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse and all this kind of thing. What on earth is that going to do to protect the public now?”

Louise Haigh, the shadow policing minister, said Johnson’s remarks were insulting to victims of abuse.

“Could you look the victims in the eye and tell them investigating and bringing to justice those who abused them, as children, is a waste of money?” she asked. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/13/boris-johnson-under-fire-over-remarks-about-child-abuse-inquiries

[Ottery] “Hospital faces 18 month wait to apply for community status”

“East Devon District Council (EDDC) announced on February 27 that supporters must wait until February 2020 before re-applying for the hospital to be listed as an asset of community value (ACV). When a building is listed as an ACV, the local community has to be informed if it goes up for sale and the public can enact the ‘community right to bid’ which gives them a period of six months to determine if they can raise the finance to purchase the asset.

The initial decision not to list the building as an ACV came in December when Ottery was one of four East Devon hospitals to be nominated. EDDC stated that it did not believe the hospital furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.

At the council meeting on February 27, Cllr Roger Giles, who also sits on the Ottery Town Council, raised the matter and referenced Southwold Hospital, in Suffolk, which was successfully listed as an ACV, before becoming the first hospital in the country to be bought by the community.

As part of the decision to list it as an ACV, Cllr Giles said the strategic director of WDC stated the owner’s assertion there is no evidence of the community social wellbeing being furthered defied common sense.

Cllr Giles said this is a view shared by many local Ottery residents about their hospital and warned that Ottery and other local community hospitals are at risk because of this perverse decision. He said EDDC is suffering reputational damage as a result of this ‘very regrettable’ decision.

Cllr Ian Thomas, leader of EDDC, said each case is considered on its merits and there had been no new evidence to warrant a review for Ottery.

Last week, leading figures from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Northern, Eastern and Western Locality Devon Clinical Commissioning Group attended a discussion to review plans for the building. A statement from the working group said: “A wide-ranging and constructive discussion took place, and a number of tasks were allocated.”

A further meeting will be held in early June.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/ottery-hospital-wait-1-5930495

“Sticking plaster won’t save our services now”

“Britain’s fabric is fraying. It’s not just the occasional crisis: schools that can’t afford a five-day week, prisons getting emergency funding because officer cuts have left jails unsafe, a privatised probation service that isn’t supervising ex-criminals. The services we take for granted have been pared so deeply that many are unravelling. The danger signals are flashing everywhere.

Local authorities have lost three quarters of their central government funding since 2010. They are cutting and selling off wherever possible: parks, libraries, youth services. The mainly Tory-run councils in the County Councils Network warned last year that their members were facing a “black hole” and were heading for “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services, including children’s centres, road repairs, elderly care, and rubbish collection.

The chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, a think tank, says councils are already on life support. Yet they face their biggest fall in funding next year. Volunteers are already running some libraries and parks. Councils will have to cut further; Theresa May’s new stronger towns fund is far too small to make a difference.

The criminal justice system has been stretched beyond reliability. The number of recorded crimes being prosecuted is falling and runs at just 8.2 per cent, as funding cuts bite, evidence isn’t scrutinised, courts close and neither defence nor prosecution teams have adequate resources or time. The chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee says “we are facing a crisis within our justice system, we are starting to see it crumble around us”.

In health, waiting times at A&E have hit their worst level in 15 years; in some surgeries the wait for a GP appointment can be weeks; and this week public satisfaction with the NHS fell to its lowest for more than a decade, at 53 per cent, down from 70 per cent in 2010. Britain’s spending watchdog, Sir Amyas Morse, departed from his usual role as a tenacious critic of government waste to warn us, bluntly, that May’s recent boost for the NHS is nothing like enough. An ageing population will need higher spending. The falling budgets for social care are “unsustainable”.

The news in education this week was that 15 Birmingham primary schools will close at lunchtime on Fridays because they can’t afford to stay open. It’s the most vivid recent example of the slashing of budgets per pupil by almost 10 per cent, in real terms, since 2010. Sixth forms have lost a quarter of their funding. Schools have reduced teaching hours, cut A-level courses in maths, science, languages, sacked librarians, school nurses, mental health and support staff, and cut back on music, art, drama and sport.

When this process began in 2010 I backed it. Like many people, I had come across enough unhelpful, incompetent jobsworths to know the state was wasting money. As a Labour supporter I’d written at the end of the Brown years warning that Labour was destroying its case for high public spending by squandering much of it.

Privately, many in the system agreed. One chief executive of a Labour council told me he’d been relieved to get rid of half his staff in the first couple of years; it had cleared out the pointless and lazy, and forced everyone to focus on what mattered and what worked. Other chief executives agreed cheerfully that they too had been “p***ing money up against the wall”.

But we are years past that point. We have moved beyond cutting fat, or transformation through efficiencies. Instead we are shrivelling the web of hopes, expectations and responsibilities that connect us all, making lives meaner and more limited, leaving streets dirtier, public spaces outside the prosperous southeast visibly neglected.

So many cuts are to the fabric that knitted people together or gave them purpose. The disappearance of day centres for the disabled, lunch clubs for the elderly or sport and social clubs for the young is easy to shrug off for the unaffected. But the consequences are often brutal for those who lose them, isolating people and leaving them with the cold message that unless you can pay, nobody cares. The hope that volunteers and charities could fill all the state’s gaps has evaporated. They haven’t and they don’t. Is this how we want Britain to be, and if not, where does this end?

Austerity was never meant to be lengthy, just a few tough years to drive reform. It was intended to be over by 2017, when a thriving economy would float us off the rocks, but events did not go to George Osborne’s plan. The economy is not about to rescue us now, either. All forms of Brexit are going to slow our growth.

Which leaves us with three choices. We could accept the decay of services, and decide to live in a crueller, more divided, more fearful country. If we didn’t want that, we could back a party that planned higher taxes to fund them — Britain’s tax burden is currently 34 per cent, three quarters of the French, Belgian and Danish rates.

Alternatively, Philip Hammond could seize the chance to start reversing this policy in his spring statement next week. In America many Republicans and Democrats, for different reasons, have begun to treat deficits with insouciance, after years of obsessing over them. What matters is whether governments can afford the interest on the debt. Rates are low. Britain desperately needs investment in its people and their futures. The cautious Hammond should open the financial taps.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Claire Wright (Independent DCC councillor) asks unpaid carers in Devon to contact her

From Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright’s Facebook page*

“I am chairing a scrutiny review into how unpaid carers in Devon are managing and would really like to hear from you if you are caring for a relative, spouse or friend.

It has taken quite a bit of pushing to get the review to take place. It was finally agreed at last September’s Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting… and then it has taken a while to get the first meeting set up.

To recap, I last raised the issue as a matter of concern at committee over a year ago after seeing the results of a local focus group which indicated that unpaid carers were feeling exhausted, short of money and stressed from a lack of respite care.

I am pleased to report that the plans for a review now seem to be progressing well and there is some survey work to be undertaken before face to face discussions can begin.

The first review meeting will take place in July (after a local carers survey has been analysed) and the plan is for members of the spotlight review to travel to local carers groups and hear firsthand how people are managing.

The review is scheduled to report back to the September Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, hopefully with some useful recommendations.
If you’d like to take part, I would love to hear from you in writing and/or in person.l

Please get in touch with me in the first instance by email at
claire@claire-wright.org

Thank you!

“Social care ‘near collapse’ as 1 million denied vital help”

Theresa May has been warned that social care is “on the brink of collapse” with more than one million older people denied help with basic tasks.

Increasing numbers are being left without support to get out of bed, dress, wash or go to the lavatory, according to the letter to the Prime Minister signed by a coalition of leading NHS and health leaders, with millions more relying on unpaid care from relatives and friends.

The four-page letter, seen by The Sunday Times, is the first time such groups have united to raise concerns over social care and states that the “perilous state” of the sector had become a “national disgrace”.

The Government is being urged to act after promising a solution to the crisis, with a green paper setting out how to fund social care delayed several times.

Signatories include leaders of the Royal College of Physicians, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal College of General Practitioners.”

Source: Times page 2