EDDC Independents call for action on poverty

Owl says: prediction – watch all these motions get watered down or struck out by block+voting Tories!

“Pressure to provide more help to struggling families, affected by benefit changes and low wages, is mounting on council bosses.

A motion calling for action will be put forward to East Devon District Council (EDDC) at a meeting on Wednesday (December 12).

The move looks to bring two reports before the authority, from the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur, which put a spotlight on the impact of benefits changes and spending cuts on people in the UK.

The motion has been proposed by Councillor Cathy Gardner, of East Devon Alliance.

She said EDDC was due to receive a report on the potential impact on residents in East Devon and the need for further support, helping those affected by the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and supporting homelessness prevention and food banks.

Cllr Gardner added: “Residents in East Devon are not immune from these effects and in fact the rollout of Universal Credit is already having an effect.

“We have seen two homeless people die since 2015, both in Sidmouth.

“An increasing number of people, some with children are relying on foodbanks in all our towns, including Sidmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton Ottery and Exmouth.”

The news comes in the same week that organisers of the Sid Valley Food Bank said that more people were needing help every week. And the numbers of people needing help were higher than they had ever been.

Co-ordinator Andie Milne said the top five reasons were:

• Delays in benefit changing transferring to UC, which could be up to 5 weeks.
• Repayment of loan provided in the case of delayed UC payment.
• Low wages and difficulties paying private rent over the housing benefit cap.
• Zero hour contracts – reduction in hours/sickness.
• Low wage unable to have contingency funds for unexpected expenditure – very noticeable with families needing to but school uniform, coping with school holidays, car repairs, winter bills and household repairs.

Cllr Garnder said: “I’m calling for the council to review whether more support is needed by people in East Devon and whether it can be provided.

“If the council does not have sufficient resources, then we must call on Government to review funding and make changes to Universal Credit. EDDC have statutory obligations, especially for housing, and it’s likely that increased demand will not be met.

“There is an urgent need to provide more social housing as well as support families who are at risk of homelessness.”

Cllr Gardner said there currently were five verified rough sleepers in East Devon – including the gentleman on Sidmouth seafront.

She added there were 27 households in temporary accommodation via EDDC – made up of 16 singles and 11 families, eight single people and two families in supported accommodation in Honiton, eight singles and two families in B and B accommodation, one family in a private sector lease property and six families in the council’s own housing stock that is being used as temporary accommodation.

Cllr Gardner said EDDC was required to help families and individuals in need of housing and was doing so, but Government cuts would likely mean it would not able to provide all the support it does or would want to in the coming years.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “This is one of three motions that are on the council agenda and officers of the council will take any necessary action arising from the council’s consideration of the motions and the decisions that are taken.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/calls-for-help-for-struggling-families-1-5809034

Grants to facilitate people with disabilities to put themselves forward for office

“People with disabilities are to be offered thousands of pounds to help them run for elected office in next year’s council elections as part of an effort to tackle under-representation in town halls.

Grants averaging £4,000 will be made available to some to cover costs of campaign expenses including specialist transport, screen reader software, sign language interpretation and braille transcription.

Only 10% of councillors have a disability, compared with about 20% of the UK population. The government is offering £250,000, which is expected to fund around 60 candidates. [The Guardian]

The Access to Elected Office fund provided such grants since its launch as a pilot in 2012 under the Coalition government, but after the 2015 general election the Conservatives put it into limbo.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/156796/access-to-elected-office-fund-returns/

Teignbridge District Council Tory majority down to 1 – implications for Greater Exeter

Owl says: The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan must be approved by all linked authorities. EDDC has already refused to sign up to the latest draft and now Teignbridge can no longer rely on whipped Tories. 1 vacancy, 23 Tories, 6 Independents and 16 Lib Dems – so Independents now VERY powerful ….

“The ruling Conservative party have seen their majority on Teignbridge District Council slashed to a wafer-thin one after the resignation of a councillor.

Cllr Amanda Ford, the previous ward member for the Teign Valley, quit the council earlier this month.

No reason for her departure has officially been stated, but just weeks before she left, she had threatened to quit as a result of ‘allegations of bullying by senior council officers’, an accusation the council has strongly refuted. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/tory-majority-slashed-one-after-2238257

NHS: thank heaven for Claire Wright – but will she be listened to by stubborn, uncaring Tories?

Owl says: how will Randall-Johnson and her cronies try to malign Claire Wright on this one with the overwhelming evidence Claire and her committee produced to show that cuts have gone much, much too far – to the point where it seems basic human rights are being infringed every day particularly for the dying?

Could Randall-Johnson and her cronies imagine some of the things described below happening to their parents, partners, siblings, friends?

What happened to this country – and this county – that health care has been allowed (nay, encouraged) to sink so low?

And all a political choice, NOT an economic one.

Shame on you Tory Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny for allowing this to happen.

“A scrutiny review into the system that’s designed to replace community hospital beds is recommending a raft of measures that will be debated at Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, on Thursday this week.

I chaired the review, which took place during the summer and found that the care at home (or Rapid Response) service was very stretched and care of the dying in particular was highlighted as an area of concern, especially since community hospital beds had been closed.

Over 200 Devon community hospital beds have been closed in the past five years or so.

We interviewed a range of witnesses, including Dr Paul Hynam, GP and Secretary of the Local Medical Committee, GP, Dr Mike Slot (whose concerns prompted the review), Ann Rhys, Assistant Director of Care at Hospiscare and Richard Westlake, Chair of Exeter Patient and Public Involvement Group.

Also interviewed were various senior managers from Devon County Council and the local NHS.

I proposed the Spotlight Review after Sidmouth GP, Dr Mike Slot, attended the January Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee to outline his concerns about how care at home (or Rapid Response) was working.

Dr Slot said that although he supported it in principle, there simply weren’t enough carers available to look after patients.

On Thursday (22 November) health scrutiny councillors will be asked to endorse 12 recommendations, including:

– No further community hospital bed closures
– Consideration of reopening some community hospital beds on a flexible basis to ease pressure on the system
– A review of all intermediate (temporary bed-based) care provision across the county
– A standardised approach to Rapid Response across the county, including having GPs on the team
– A review of Hospiscare’s role in end of life care, with a view to providing more financial support

Sadly, the biggest pressure on the local healthcare system seems to be care of the dying.

This outcome was predicted by some GPs before the community hospital beds were closed.

Hospiscare’s Assistant Director of Care, Ann Rhys, told councillors that since the community hospital beds had closed Hospiscare had seen a significant increase in pressure on the service and a resultant large increase of patients dying in their 12 bedded inpatient unit in Exeter.

In the last three months (reported over this summer) 40 patients have been unable to access Rapid Response.

Worryingly, staff can make phone contact three to four times a day to the Rapid Response service because there is NOT support available. This is very time consuming and has a significant impact on community teams.

Councillors were very concerned to hear that one East Devon Hospiscare nurse had reported that in just one month during the summer there were eight instances where no care was available.

GP feedback revealed that the service has led to a lack of confidence by some GPs who say they spend a long time trying to find carers to support a patient at home, only to find there is no support available.

The result is then an admission to the local acute hospital instead. Something the service was set up to avoid.

The NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group did not provide hospital readmission rates to the scrutiny review, despite being asked several times to do so.

A survey to GPs prompted responses mostly from East Devon. Some of the comments are below:

– “Sometimes it can take some time to get a call back informing you that they cannot get the care requested, meaning the patient needs to be admitted much later in the day.”

– “Since the closure of community beds and supposed reallocation of funds the service seems rather worse than better.

– “I take the view when with a patient that I won’t be able to access Rapid Response but if I can it’s a bonus.”

– “Sadly SPOA (Rapid Response) sounds great, but in reality, it’s a time-consuming referral with low probability of delivering the service you want.”

– “I have had three recent episodes where I have called SPOA (Rapid Response) in recent months and they have been unable to put in appropriate care. Patients have been sent to the RD&E for admission. It is a frustrating process – often not staffed well enough so details at the point of contact cannot be taken. Most cases seem to involve two to four calls back to speak to the right person. GPs under pressure are tied up for too long by the service. So long in fact it has made me not want to use the service. It would be easier to admit patients than it is to call SPOA and arrange care – or try to arrange the care…. “

– “Our allocated care agency handed back their contract and we have been left with very little support for care… when we need Rapid Response to support patients and prevent admission we cannot link into subsequent long-term care packages. I had one chap with a neurological condition who had Rapid Response for over a year!”

I am really really glad this piece of work was carried out and I am proud to be the spotlight review’s chair.

For years we have been told by senior managers that the system is working well, with just a few minor problems. This report and the conversations we have had with people who work at the coalface clearly shows a different picture. A worrying picture that needs fully examining.

I trust that councillors who sit on Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee will fully support the recommendations.

Here’s the link to the report, which will be debated and voted on Thursday (22 November) https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s22439/RR%20Report%20final.pdf

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/no_more_community_hospital_bed_closures_recommends_devon_health_scrutiny_re

INDEPENDENT COUNCILLORS SLAM TORY SUPPORT FOR HIGH RISK EXMOUTH STRATEGY

Press release:

“A series of East Devon District Council Independent councillors strongly criticised Tory proposals to commence work on a replacement car park, as part of the Queens Drive Regeneration Project, at the EDDC Cabinet meeting on 31 October.

Leading the criticism was Exmouth Councillor Megan Armstrong (Exmouth Halsdon – Independent) who referred to the planned new road as “a road to nowhere”.

Other Independent Councillors expressing concern about the Tory course of action were Independents Roger Giles, Ben Ingham, and Rob Longhurst and EDA Members Cathy Gardner and Geoff Jung.

The first criticism related to timing. Although it was a major and contentious issue, the report for the meeting was issued just 24 hours before the meeting.

Megan Armstrong urged that the report be deferred to allow councillors time to properly consider the proposals, and the implications. She said that sending out the report so late was “manipulative management.”

Cathy Gardner said it was “extremely regrettable that such short notice was given for such an important issue”.

It had originally been agreed that the go ahead for construction of the car park would only be given when agreement had been reached between EDDC and Grenadier about construction of the Watersports Centre by Grenadier.

However the EDDC Cabinet was informed on 31 October that no such agreement had been reached. Merely that verbal assurances had been made.

Roger Giles warned the Cabinet that going ahead without the required agreement carried substantial risks. He cited paragraph 2.7 of the report which said : `Cabinet should be aware that this represents a risk that the council is incurring costs without Grenadier being legally committed to delivering the Watersports Centre thereafter.`

Roger Giles asked whether independent audit advice had been sought about the inherent risk. He was told it had not.

Ben Ingham was strongly critical of undertaking such a high risk strategy.

Rob Longhurst criticised the lack of a business plan, and the absence of costings, and said there was a lack of justification for the departure from the previous strategy.

Geoff Jung questioned the income assumptions; he asked how a smaller car park than the original would generate increased income. He also expressed concern about EDDC`s responsibilities anf financial burden, should Grenadier not develop the site.

Megan Armstrong pointed out that the Cabinet agenda papers (item 10 pages 31 to 35) contained the minutes of the meeting of the Exmouth Regeneration Board on 20 September. The minutes contained no reference to the proposed early construction of the car park!

Megan Armstrong asked a series of critical questions, including about the three outstanding `condition precedents`, and seeking explanation of the beach access agreement.

She complained that questions asked by herself, and by other independent councillors, had not received proper answers. Council Leader Ian Thomas told her he would ensure that she received answers after the meeting; Megan Armstrong was very critical of councillors being asked to make a decision – and then to receive the pertinent information AFTER the decision was made: she said “That is a very poor form of decision making.”

In spite of the failure to achieve the necessary agreements the (Conservative) Cabinet agreed to proceed with early construction of the car park after only 3 Cabinet Members spoke very briefly.

After the meeting Megan Armstrong was highly critical of the Cabinet decision.

“Tonight Tory councillors made an important decision relating to Exmouth, and they denied the people of Exmouth the opportunity to comment on it. The Tory councillors agreed a very high risk strategy without justification for it, and without proper safeguard for public funds for which they are responsible. It is irresponsible political management; Exmouth deserves better.”

Call for independents spreads to Bournemouth

Where East Devon (Alliance) leads the “Alliance for Local Living” in Bournemouth follows!

“A NEW political party is planning to contest next year’s election to the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole combined authority.

However ALL, or the Alliance for Local Living, is being set up in contrast to the traditional party system, as its members will all be independents standing under one banner.

They will not be forced to follow the party line via the whip.

The organisers, a group of residents, have now put out a call for candidates.

“We want ordinary members of the public, passionate people who are doing valuable things in their community to think about possibly stepping up and bringing local politics back into that community,” said Felicity Rice (above), one of the founders. “We are happy to have anyone in our group, they can even be a member of an existing party, but they must make their own decisions based on their personal opinion.”

ALL, also known as Three Towns Together in its earlier stages, was inspired by the similarly organised Independents for Frome group, which took total control of the Somerset town’s council in 2015.

The reduction from 120 to 76 councillors covering the three boroughs in the new unitary has led to concern that it will be dominated by one political party. Independents and members of current opposition parties are known to have spoken with ALL as a way to unite a disparate opposition against the Conservative Party.

Current Poole People Party councillor Andy Hadley said he was liaising with the group on behalf of his party, and he thought them “well-matched”.

“We have been passing on advice on what we have had to go through to get elected as independents, the vision of getting 72 seats is is very extreme. But to get enough to make a significant impact on decision-making would be really good.

“I know quite a few people have expressed an interest, but it needs people to stand up and say ‘we want to be part of this’.”

ALL’s first selection day for candidates will be November 24. Visit voteforall.org.uk to get involved.”

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/17187673.new-party-of-independents-all-wants-ordinary-people-to-stand-for-election/

Twiss gets his words into a twist – ANOTHER reason we need independent councillors!

This time from the blog of DCC EDA councillor Martin Shaw.

“Conservative County Councillor for Honiton, Phil Twiss told Devon County Council on 4th October that ‘Sonja Manton [Director of Strategy for the Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups] said at the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee the other week that there no plans to close any community hospitals in our area. We were talking about Seaton, Honiton and Axminster at the time.’

I was surprised that he should give us this good news in passing, and that the CCG had made no announcement of something so obviously important. So eventually I watched the webcast of the Health Scrutiny meeting on September 20th. Although Sonja Manton spoke several times, I couldn’t find her saying anything like what Phil said – indeed anything about community hospitals at all.

So I emailed Sonja and she confirms she didn’t speak about the hospitals. As for the issue, all she would say was, ‘I can assure you that our continued focus remains on planning and commissioning services and support to meet the needs of the Devon population in the best possible way. We recognise how strongly communities feel about community hospital buildings and will continue to work with communities and stakeholders to modernise and evolve the way our services are delivered and where they are based to make sure we make best use of all our resources and public estate.‘

So was Sonja more forthcoming at another, presumably private, meeting, Phil? Or was what you said wishful thinking?”

@philtwiss’claim that @SonjaManton said ‘there are no plans to close any community hospitals in our area’, not backed up by @NEWDevonCCG. What’s the explanation, Phil?