“More than £10 billion” spent on “sticking plaster solutions” to public service cuts

“More than £10bn of taxpayers’ money is being wasted because the government continues to ignore emerging warning signs on key public services, allowing pressures to build—and then diverting emergency cash to the frontline when a crisis emerges.

This wasteful cycle is highlighted in new analysis from the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), published on 19 October. Worryingly, Performance Tracker, our data-driven analysis of nine public services – across health, education, law and order, neighbourhood services and immigration – finds that this emergency cash isn’t being used to solve the underlying issues in these services, but is simply keeping them going in their current state. …”


“Government accused of “sidelining” parliament by boycotting key votes”

“MPs will hold an emergency debate tomorrow in a bid to stop the Tories “sidelining” Parliament by boycotting key votes.

Theresa May was accused of “running scared” of democracy when she ordered her MPs to skip Labour bids to freeze tuition fees and give nurses a fair pay rise last month. Her majority of just 13 led to fears she would lose the non-binding votes in an embarrassing defeat. So instead she boycotted the ‘Opposition Day’ motions, meaning they passed but were not officially a defeat for the government.

Tonight Commons Speaker John Bercow granted an emergency debate on the tactic after a request by the Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael. Mr Carmichael said it had “long been the practice of governments” to respect Opposition Day debates, adding: “The government is seeking to treat this House as talking shop.”

He said the government having to prop itself up with the hard-right DUP was historic, adding: “It’s a moment for us to assert the will of Parliament, not to see it sidelined.”

The debate will last three hours and begin late tomorrow morning.”


Lies, damned lies and a minority government on fire (lack of) safety

“… Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, pledged in July that any lack of financial resources would not prevent necessary works going ahead.

The housing minister, Alok Sharma, has declined Nottingham city council’s request for help to install sprinklers inside flats and communal areas in 13 towers at a cost of £6.2m. Sharma told the council: “The fire safety measures you outline are additional rather than essential.”
He has told the London borough of Croydon, which wants to spend £10m on retrofitting sprinklers to 25 tall residential blocks: “It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that people are safe.”

Wandsworth wants to spend up to £30m on sprinklers in 100 towers but has been told: “Support will not include general improvement and enhancements to buildings.”

All the councils said they had been advised to carry out works by their local fire brigades.

The tension over who should foot the fire safety bill follows a pledge in July by the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, that any lack of financial resources would not prevent necessary works going ahead. However, the government appears determined not to fund or allow additional borrowing for any improvements that go beyond essential safety works. The necessity of sprinklers is proving a key faultline.

Dany Cotton, commissioner of the LFB, has said retrofitting sprinklers in tower blocks “can’t be optional, it can’t be a nice-to-have”. Since 2007 they have been compulsory in new-build high-rises over 30 metres tall in England, but those building regulations do not apply to older blocks.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) argues that an appropriate level of fire safety can be achieved without the need to retrofit sprinklers, and fitting them is a matter for landlords to consider for themselves.

A recent study of 677 fires where sprinklers were activated found they controlled or extinguished the fire in 99% of cases.

The nationwide bill for replacing flammable cladding and retrofitting sprinklers is already likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds. Southwark has previously estimated that the bill for installing sprinklers in its towers could be as high as £100m, and it is currently finalising its bid for funding. The council leader, Peter John, has told Javid: “Fire safety is a national issue and the financial burden for these works must not fall on already stretched councils.”

Birmingham city council, the UK’s largest council landlord, is yet to submit a request for retrofitting sprinklers in up to 213 blocks.

So far, 31 town halls have asked for government help to make high-rise flats safe. The DCLG said it was in detailed discussions with six, and others had been invited to provide further information about how the work they wished to undertake was essential.

In Salford, the city council has borrowed £25m to fund works to remove potentially flammable cladding from nine towers, and leaders have accused the government of “failing to live up to its responsibility”.

“Like many other councils, Salford is lobbying the government to recognise the huge financial cost of this national issue and provide funding to us and other local authorities to deal with it,” said the deputy city mayor, John Merry.

Pressed on funding at the Conservative party conference in Manchester this week, Theresa May said: “We have said we would work with local authorities on any adaptations and changes they needed to make to ensure the safety of those tower blocks.”

But asked about funding sprinklers, she said: “There’s a number of issues that can improve the safety of tower blocks. It is not just one answer.”

Adam Hug, leader of the Labour opposition at Westminster city council, said he had seen correspondence with the government detailing the council’s request for financial aid or better flexibility on borrowing.

“Both were being asked for,” he said. “They were told: only in exceptional circumstances. Yet again it will be council tenants and people who desperately need new homes who are left to pay the price of this Tory government washing their hands of their responsibilities.” …”


Don’t punish the bully, punish the victim, says Tory donors

This is extraordinary. In any other walk of life a bully would be punished and his or her victim given support. In this increasingly mad party, it is the other way round. In this case the bully is being joined by other bullies to force the victim out of a job.

And as for raising more money from “ordinary” voters – do people not realise that these donors are now desperately squirreling away their cash to cushion them against Brexit problems. With lots of it probably going to those tax havens they love so much.

As an employer – for that is what Tory donors are – these rich donors who are calling the tune – it should be ashamed of themselves. But alas, shame is something rich Tory donors have never and will never experience.

And every member of the Conservative Party shares in this – including our MPs Swire and Parish if they stay silent and join in bearing in mind Swire tweeted his support of bully-boy Johnson very recently, after his attack on May.

Tory party members – you are all complicit with the behaviour of these bullies. Pay your subs and be one of the rabble they will call up on their behalf – that’s your role. And take over paying for their share while they still pull your strings.

“Conservative donors have called for Theresa May to stand down because she is being “bullied” by colleagues including Boris Johnson.

Following an ill-fated conference speech and rumours of a backbench plot against the prime minister, two wealthy supporters said the party must act quickly and install another leader.

In a further development, the party is discussing plans to emulate Labour and widen its financial support away from large donations from a select group of wealthy donors to smaller donations from its ordinary members.

Charlie Mullins, the founder of London-based Pimlico Plumbers, said May must leave because she was being bullied and undermined by Johnson.

He said: “She has got to go for her own sake. It is getting embarrassing. If this was a boxing match, the fight would have been stopped. She has been put in a position where she is being bullied, she is being intimidated, they are making her life hell. These are Conservative people who are destroying this woman and it needs to stop.”

Mullins, who has donated £50,000 and spent £30,000 on a stall at this year’s conference, said the foreign secretary had been successfully undermining the prime minister.

“She is a broken woman. They are setting her up,” he said. “Boris is not a fool. He knows what he is doing. Boris is knocking her at every opportunity he gets because he wants to be prime minister. Boris has been a big part of destroying this woman. …

A second donor said May appeared to be too weak to fight the business community’s corner and should leave by Christmas if the party wants to retain financial support from entrepreneurs.

The businessman, who has given more than £300,000 in total, said: “[The party] is losing support in the City. People worry that the Tories are taking us over a Brexit cliff edge and May looks too weak to control her ministers.

“We need to act now. Whether she is replaced by an old guard member like Michael Fallon or new blood, I am not sure.”

The Conservatives have grown increasingly concerned about the party’s failing support from big donors in the business community.

While the Tories generated £1.5m in membership fees last year, Labour raised £14.4m, according to figures published in August by the Electoral Commission.

John Griffin, the founder of taxi firm Addison Lee who has given more than £4m to the Conservatives, told the Guardian that he has had preliminary talks with party officials about helping to widen financial support from a select few individuals to other less wealthy donors.

“I think the party has performed very poorly in that particular area, so I have a cunning plan and we will be having meetings about that this month. They have underperformed in the area of collecting money,” he said.

“We don’t really want donors to give large sums. We want lots of people to give smaller sums. That is the plan. The Labour party are making a better fist of it. We need to consider that and emulate them.”

Griffin declined to go into further details but said he raised the idea with May at a fundraising dinner at the Dorchester hotel in central London last month. “She supports the idea in principle,” he said.

Griffin, who gave £1m to the party before this year’s election, said he wantedMay to remain as prime minister and called for Johnson to be given a “smacked bum” for undermining her.

“Boris has been a naughty boy and needs a smacked bum. That’s where I stand. He is a nice bloke, but there is a time for everything and he needs a bit more dignity,” he said. “I have encouraged the prime minister to make sure that these people in the cabinet stand in line and she must exercise her power.”


A Tory council leader pleads for cross-party initiatives and unitisation to cut costs

Owl sats: One has to wonder if he would be putting out the same message if his party had a majority.

Austerity means careful, selective investment is needed in core services, says Martin Tett, the Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire council

“… Less than a fortnight ago, the LGA sent chancellor Philip Hammond a 40-page submission ahead of the autumn budget which warned that services in England were at “tipping point” as a result of significant funding gaps, pointing to children’s services, adult social care and homelessness. By the end of this decade, English town halls will have seen £16bn of reductions to government grant funding – and from April 2019, 168 councils will not receive any funding for day-to-day expenditure.

Among its many appeals, the umbrella body urged the government to meet a £5.8bn funding gap facing existing local services by 2019/2020, of which £2.3bn is identified in adult social care. This figure includes £1.3bn that the LGA says is needed immediately to stabilise the adult social care market. This is despite an additional £2bn announced by Hammond in his spring budget to help councils cope over the next three years.

It also reiterated its call for greater financial flexibility and powers to allow town halls to build new homes in large numbers once more. …

… Alongside its urgent plea for cash for adult social care, the LGA has called for cross-party talks at national level to find a long-term solution to the social care funding crisis. The move echoes a call made by the Commons select committee for communities and local government in March that concluded that inadequate funding was having a serious impact on both the quality and level of care, and said a long-term fix was urgently necessary. Earlier this year, former Lib Dem social care minister Norman Lamb and a small group of cross-party MPs urged the prime minister to set up an NHS and Care convention to work on a sustainable settlement. A recent poll by the charity Independent Age showed that 86% of MPs believe a cross-party consensus is needed. The LGA has even offered to host the first round of discussions. …

… One way to save significant money would be to replace the two-tier system of one county and four district councils with one unitary authority. Having responsibilities split across two tiers of local government is crazy, says Tett. Districts, for example, are responsible for housing, counties for infrastructure – yet they are “two bits of the same jigsaw”. It would speed up decision-making, end the confusion about who is responsible for which services and allow a more holistic approach, such as joint commissioning across housing, health and care, he says.

The business case for unitary authority status has been in communities secretary Sajid Javid’s in-tray since last September. Tett is waiting to see if the reasoned argument will be heard.”


The destruction of trust in the NHS? Hunt has an app for that

“Jeremy Hunt spoke to the Tory conference in Manchester today about the NHS. It was a bizarre spectacle.

Hunt gave the Tories the credit for the fact that we have an NHS. He said he would increase the number of nurse training places – ignoring the fact that there aren’t enough student nurses filling courses now, thanks to the Tories’ decision to scrap bursaries for nursing students. And he tried to claim patient satisfaction levels are at an all-time high in an NHS that’s falling down around our ears amid ever-lengthening waiting times and hospitals running at record deficits.

But his nonsense entered the realm of the surreal when, after calling for a hypocritical round of applause for heroic medical staff who risked their lives to save others in the Manchester and London terror attacks, he said he planned to show nurses how valued they were and to help them manage their family commitments.

With an app.

And he screwed up and let slip that the ‘flexible working app’ he plans to make available is actually for NHS Trusts to be able to get their staff to work extra hours at short notice.

It’s the equivalent of a selfish, idiot husband buying his wife a new iron or vacuum cleaner so she can do ‘her’ chores more efficiently – and expecting her to be pleased at the ‘romantic’ gesture.

Except this is an idiot Health Secretary insulting well over a million NHS workers, If he hadn’t already been the most despised in the history of the NHS, he would be now.”

Video: Hunt – “I’ll give nurses an app to work longer at short notice”

Tories to build council houses, lots of council houses, beautiful council houses, the best council houses …

“Councils are expected to be given new freedoms to build their own homes, while also being forced to assess local need and set targets to construct more housing in their area.”

You see where this is going again?

Developers get a “council house target”, start building, council houses “unviable”


Council has to find money to build council houses from their own “profits” on other services such as refuse collection, planning fees, council tax

Magic money trees.

And from a government that deliberately stopped building them.

Yet some will think this is wonderful, and vote for them.

Remember, this is a desperate minority government – the NHS was “safe in their hands” … education was safe in their hands …