DCC Tories block discussion of fire station closures

From the blog of DCC East Devon Alliance councillor Martin Shaw:

“Yesterday I tried to propose a motion to Devon County Council to halt the fire station closures. The grainy photo (on his blog) taken from the webcast shows the Conservatives voting as a block to stop it even being discussed. They wanted to refer my motion to the Cabinet who would amend it and bring it back to the Council in December. By then, the Fire Authority – chaired by Colyton’s former county councillor, Sarah Randall-Johnson – will have decided on its proposals at a meeting on 8th November.

Following this disgraceful episode, there can be little doubt that Tory councillors on the fire authority are preparing to vote through the fire station closures. Local people need to increase pressure on all the individual members of the Authority, change their minds. …”

This is the moment the Conservatives voted to stop Devon County Council even discussing fire station closures – you have been warned, they are preparing to vote them through at the Fire Authority

East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Shaw on disgraceful NHS Property Services

Press Release:

Summary: Since NHS Property Services was handed ownership of the small, single-story Health Centre (a building the size of a small bungalow) in Colyton in 2016, they have increased basic service charges to the Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice from £6471 to £23018 over 4 years (a 330 per cent increase).

Together with ‘true-up’ charges, the total charges demanded rose from £5556 to £34657 in just two years (a 560 per cent increase), and could top £40k this year.

At the same time the actual service provided has deteriorated. The Centre was without hot water for 3 months until earlier this month, as NHS PS failed to replace the boiler.

The practice is disputing all charges since 2016-17.
The practice has been attempting to negotiate with NHS PS but they have refused to reduce the charges to a reasonable level.

I have brought the matter to Health Scrutiny to ask them to investigate.

I have discovered that the BMA said earlier this year: ‘‘GP leaders have been warning since 2016 that huge extra costs imposed through service charge hikes could force practices to close if they were not reversed.’

I am worried that unless this issue is resolved, the 4000 people in Colyton, Colyford and surrounding rural area could lose the health centre which they rely on.

PAPER FOR DISCUSSION:

NHS Property Services and Colyton Health Centre

Colyton Health Centre is the only GP facility serving the town of Colyton and the surrounding rural area. Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice runs a busy branch surgery in the centre, with a GP and a nurse there all day Monday to Friday. The area has a growing and ageing population, with around 40 per cent over age 65. The Centre is located close to the heart of the town, within walking distance for most of its population.

The Centre maintenance charges

The Centre is a small, single storey building dating from 1960s which the Practice rents from NHS Property Services. The practice pays rent, together with 63 per cent of the costs of running the building.

For many years, these costs to the practice were around £4-5k p.a., reaching £5.5k in 2015-16, the final year with North Devon NHS Trust were landlords. However after NHS Property Services took over ownership of the property in 2016, they escalated enormously. The final figure for the current year, including ‘true-up’, could be as much as £40,000.

[Table here reproduced by photograph]

Service inadequacies

On top of this, the services the practice receives have deteriorated. NHS Property Services contract out the maintenance of the property to Mitie, and there have many examples of when jobs have been badly managed, the problem has been exacerbated rather than fixed, or the jobs have just not been carried out at all.

The Practice Manager states: ‘When preparing for a recent CQC inspection, we had to stick the floor in the nurses’ room down with duct tape as our request to replace it made 5 months previously had not been actioned.

We also discovered that basic fire checks had not been carried out. I have recently been approached by contractors wishing to carry out electrical work requested in 2016 but never actioned, the grass went uncut for most of the summer and in June the boiler was condemned so we have had no hot water or means to heat the building since then.’

The boiler was finally replaced last week but this has only uncovered more problems and the centre remains without hot water after more than 3 months.

Inappropriate charges

The practice has been attempting to negotiate with their landlords for over a year, and from information NHS Property Services have sent in the course of these negotiations they have realised that what they are being billed for is inaccurate.

They are charged over £2,500 per year for grounds maintenance including watering and maintaining of containers (they don’t have any), 4 hours of grass cutting every 2 weeks (they had a wild flower meadow in front of the surgery by July and since then contractors have been twice, each time for about 40 minutes) and fortnightly litter pick-ups (they have never seen anyone picking up litter.)
They have also been charged for the fitting of bed alarms for patients, but there are no beds in Colyton Health Centre (or anywhere else in the Axe Valley).

The unresolved issues

Charges for 2016-17 and 2017-18 remain in dispute, while the company has not yet provided a final figure for 2018-19.

After over a year of negotiations, the Practice has been unable to resolve these amounts or to persuade the company to agree a level of ongoing maintenance charges which would be appropriate to this small building.

The Practice Manager states: ‘We have spent an enormous amount of time as a practice attempting to achieve an acceptable solution which is fair and reflects the work carried out on the building, but so far to no avail. The maintenance is poor and impacts on staff and patients, while the astronomical rise in maintenance charges means we have to seriously consider the financial viability of continuing to operate from this site, something we definitely wish to do.’

Our requests to the Scrutiny Committee

I have brought this to the Committee because the Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice has been unsuccessful over an extended period of time in negotiating a reasonable level of charges and adequate delivery of the maintenance service.

They now feel it is appropriate that there should be public scrutiny of this situation, stating:

‘We appreciate your time in allowing us to bring this matter to your attention, and we would welcome the support of the committee in our attempt to resolve these issues in a satisfactory manner, which will allow us to focus on delivering healthcare to the people of Colyton and the surrounding area.’

As the County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton, representing not only the Practice but also the thousands of patients whom it serves, I hope the Committee will express its concern to NHS Property Services about this situation.

I also believe that the Committee should consider whether the way in which NHS Property Services has treated this practice raises issues about how the company manages properties across Devon.

County Councillor Martin Shaw”

“‘Astronomical rent rises’ threaten Colyton Health Centre”

Sadly, this is being replicated all over the country. It would be cheaper for the practice to rent a residential bungalow and adapt it!

So far our local MP Neil Parish – looking for re-election – has been silent. Maybe time for a challenge to him similar to that of Claire Wright in the othet half of our district …

“In a report to Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee today (Monday, September 23) Colyton county councillor Martin Shaw says the centre has been left without a working boiler since June and without basic fire checks being carried out.

Its rent has increased from some £5,000 around five years ago to an expected £40,000 this year, he reports.

Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice has been fighting a long-running battle over rapidly rising charges for the centre, in Grove Hill, since NHS Property Services took over as its landlords.

Combined with rent rises, the maintenance of the property has deteriorated to the extent that basic fire checks have not been carried out, the boiler has not been working for three months, and they are being billed for services that are not being provided, says Cllr Shaw.

His report outlines the problems the Practice is facing and he, with support from the Practice, has called for public scrutiny over NHS Property Services’ behavior.

The centre is a small, single storey building, dating from the 1960s, which the Practice rents from NHS Property Services.

The Practice pays rent, together with 63 per cent of the costs of running the building. Rents used to be around £5,000 a year, hitting a highest figure of £5,500 in 2015-16, the last year in which the North Devon NHS Trust were landlords.

However, since NHS Property Services took over ownership of the property in 2016, the rents have escalated, to £15,422.66 in 2016-17, £34,657.39 in 2017-18, and a figure expected to be around the £40,000 mark for 2018-19.

Cllr Shaw said: “These are ludicrous figures for a building the size of a small bungalow, and the Practice is contesting them.”

The report says that NHS Property Services has also been inaccurately billing the practice – including being charged for fitting bed alarms for patients, when there are no beds in Colyton Health Centre.

Kirstine House, practice manager, added: “When preparing for a recent CQC inspection, we had to stick the floor in the nurses’ room down with duct tape as our request to replace it made five months previously had not been actioned.

“We also discovered that basic fire checks had not been carried out.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/colyton-health-centre-told-to-used-duck-tape-to-fix-floor-1-6283617

Senior Fire officers refuse to appear at DCC Scrutiny Committee -EDA DCC Councillor Shaw suggests alternative meeting

PRESS RELEASE

The Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service is currently consulting on proposals to close 8 rural fire stations. The County Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee decided on 25th June to place the station closures on the agenda for its meeting on 26th September, and to invite the Fire Service to attend and present their case.

I learnt today that the Service has refused the invitation to attend the Scrutiny Committee, which is held in public, webcast and offers an opportunity for public participation. Instead they are offering a ‘masterclass’ on the proposals for county councillors, in private, which is scheduled for 4th September.

As a member of the Committee and County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton, representing the town of Colyton where one of the threatened stations is located – together with surrounding densely rural parishes which rely on the prompt response of its firefighters – I am outraged by the refusal of the Fire Authority to face public scrutiny of its proposals and answer the objections of local communities and their elected representatives.

I have therefore asked Cllr Alistair Dewhirst, Chair of the Committee, to invite other interested parties (representatives of the threatened Devon fire stations and the Fire Brigades Union – Devon and Somerset) to present to the Committee instead, and for County officers to prepare a report to the committee on the proposals.

The Scrutiny Committee’s discussion of the proposals is the only opportunity which elected representatives will have to scrutinise them before the Fire Authority’s final decision which will be made on Bonfire Night, 5th November. (The Authority’s own meetings offer members of the public, including councillors, only the possibility to ask questions or present petitions, not to give their views directly.)

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

Should Seaton’s disgraced ex-Mayor still be Chair of the town’s Lib Dems?

Given that Councillor Burrows (Seaton Town and East Devon district) was forced to resign his post as Seaton Mayor and is subject of at least one complaint to EDDC’s Monitoring Officer:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/01/11/seaton-disgraced-ex-mayor-peter-burrows-town-council-responds-names-names/

should he still be Chair of the Seaton branch of the Lib Dems?

And he might consider amending his puff-job for himself on his “invitation only” Seaton Views Facebook page (from which he excludes or bans many people who do not share his views) where he says:

“… Peter is currently the Chairman of Seaton & District Liberal Democrats with Lewis Ragbourn secretary and Ron Farlow treasurer. The Liberal Democrats in Seaton are the only party that campaigns and informs residents outside of elections.”

Owl thinks that East Devon Alliance is constantly campaigning and informing residents of the whole of East Devon, AND Seaton in particular, with its high-profile Devon County Councillor Martin Shaw, who is campaigning and working tirelessly for Seaton and Colyton – particularly over issues of the NHS and Highways issues in that area.

DCC East Devon Alliance Councillor backs East Devon National Park

“I’m putting forward a motion to the next meeting in July for the Council to support a new park, which would include the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and prepare a case for submission to the review of national parks recently announced by the Government.

I’m proposing that Devon County Council supports the creation of a Dorset and East Devon National Park

And EDDC Leader Thomas is … silent so far. And Hugo Swire is … silent so far!

EDDC Independents lead call for action on local health provision

Owl can’t quite see why Tory Councillor Allen felt the need to table his amendment – perhaps he felt Independent councillors were rather too Independent and therefore needed a dash of Tory policy! Now we just have to hope that new Leader Thomas doesn’t go and do exactly the opposite of what was resolved when he attends to DCC health scrutiny meetings – as Diviani notoriously did last year.

“A motion calling for the community hospitals which have lost beds to be maintained as health hubs, that services and clinics should be moved out of Exeter to local community hospitals and that more outpatient services should be provided in each community hospital was discussed by East Devon District Council at their meeting last week.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Marianne Rixson [EDA, Independent] said that health hubs in local areas need to be supported by the Council.

She added that the need for less travelling and difficult local bus services needed to be taken into consideration and that if place-based care was to be effective then the level of out-patient services need to be increased overall or at least maintained in every town.

She was supported by Cllr Val Ranger [Independent] who added that those people discharged early from hospital, children and elderly living with long-term health conditions should be able to access out-patient services locally in every community.

Councillors voted for an amendment, proposed by Cllr Mike Allen [Conservative], that said that this Council resolves to welcome the proposal of the Devon CCG’s to develop placed-based health care where strong evidence suggested that it would deliver high-quality patient care and sustainable services.

It added: “However, due to lack of supporting clinical evidence and clear future planning, the Council has strongly opposed closure and removal of community hospital beds and hospital-based services throughout East Devon.

“All efforts are made, in consultation with local communities, to ensure the existing estate of community hospitals was retained for health care purposes, where appropriate, the potential development of ‘Health Hubs’ was investigated, and council members received from the Clinical Commissioning Group a review of service changes (bed-based to home/community based care) made during 2017/2018 in East Devon, to include clinical evidence highlighting levels of patient safety and outcomes achieved and an evidence-based forward plan of proposed changes to health services in East Devon, for initial discussion at a future Cabinet.

After the meeting, Cllr Martin Shaw [DCC East Devon Alliance], said that he has written to Cllr Ian Thomas, who is due to become the new leader of the council on May 16, asking for assurances that each of the hospitals which has lost its beds (Axminster, Honiton, Ottery and Seaton), as well as Exmouth and Sidmouth, to be kept open and that a formal public consultation in the affected town and surrounding area should a closure of any community hospital, involving substantial relocation of outpatient services, be proposed.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/health/closure-removal-hospital-beds-should-1530794