“Social care postcode gap widens for older people”: EDDC tries to claw back its mistakes too late

Last week, desperate Tories put a much-too-little! much-too-late motion to East Devon District Council:

“To ask the Leader of East Devon District Council to request Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, to investigate the effects on Rural Communities of the STP actions and to test if Rural Proofing Policies have been correctly applied to these decisions in order to protect these communities”


As Owl noted at the time, this is somewhat rich, as their Leader, Paul Diviani, voted at Devon County Council AGAINST sending the document to the Secretary of State for Health (where this could have been highlighted in the covering submission) against the instructions of his EDDC Tory Councillors and never having consulted other Devon Tory councils he was supposed to represent. He was ably assisted in this by former EDDC Chairman Sarah Randall Johnson, who as Chair of the DCC committee, railroaded their choice of action by effectively silencing any opposition (EDW passim)

This led to the accelerated closure of community beds in Honiton and Seaton, following on from earlier closures in Axminster and Ottery St Mary.

A subsequent vote of “No Confidence” in Diviani at EDDC (brought by non-Tory councillors) was defeated by the very Tory councillors he had defied!

Now we read that “Social care postcode gap widens for older people” and that social care is breaking down in deprived areas – many of which are inevitably rural.

… The knock-on effects for the NHS see elderly patients end up in hospital unnecessarily after accidents at home, while they cannot be discharged unless they have adequate community care in place. Among men, 30% in the poorest third of households needed help with an activity of daily living (ADL), compared with 14% in the highest income group. Among women, the need for such help was 30% among the poorest third and 20% in the highest third.

There is a growing army of unpaid helpers, such as family and friends, propping up the system. Around two-thirds of adults aged 65 and over, who had received help for daily activities in the past month, had only received this from unpaid helpers, the figures revealed.

Spending on adult social care by local authorities fell from £18.4bn in 2009-10 to just under £17bn in 2015-16, according to the respected King’s Fund. It represents a real-terms cut of 8%. It estimates there will be an estimated social care funding gap of £2.1bn by 2019-20.

While an extra £2bn was provided for social care over two years, a huge gap remains after the latest budget failed to address the issue. Theresa May was forced to abandon plans to ask the elderly to help pay for social care through the value of their homes, after it was blamed for contributing to her disastrous election result. The government has promised to bring forward some new proposals by the summer, but many Tory MPs and Conservative-run councils are desperate for faster action.

Ministers have dropped plans to put a cap on care costs by 2020 – a measure proposed by Sir Andrew Dilnot’s review of social care and backed by David Cameron when he was prime minister.

Izzi Seccombe, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Social care need is greater in more deprived areas and this, in turn, places those councils under significant financial pressures. Allowing councils to increase council tax to pay for social care, while helpful in some areas, is of limited use in poorer areas because their weaker tax base means they are less able to raise funds.

“In more deprived areas there is also likely to be a higher number of people who rely on councils to pay for their care. This, in turn, puts even more pressure on the local authority.

“If we are to bridge the inequality gap in social care, we need long-term sustainable funding for the sector. It was hugely disappointing that the chancellor found money for the NHS but nothing for adult social care in the autumn budget. We estimate adult social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020.”

Simon Bottery, from the King’s Fund, said: “We know that need will be higher in the most deprived areas – people get ill earlier and have higher levels of disability, and carry that through into social care need.

“We also know that the councils that have the greater need to spend are, on average, raising less money through the precept [earmarked for funding social care].”


Effect of Sustainability and Transformation plans on rural communities – East Devon Tories miss the boat then moan about it!

Motion at today’s EDDC full council meeting.

Recall that EDDC council leader voted AGAINST submitting the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’s plan to the Secretary of State for Health at the meeting of Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee AGAINST the wishes of his own district council.

Now, that same district council, whose Tory members absolved him of blame for this act are making a TOKEN fuss about its consequences!

“Motion – The effects on Rural Communities of the Sustainability Transformation Partnership (STP) actions in East Devon

“To ask the Leader of East Devon District Council to request Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, to investigate the effects on Rural Communities of the STP actions and to test if Rural Proofing Policies have been correctly applied to these decisions in order to protect these communities”.

Proposer Councillor Mike Allen Seconded by Councillor Ian Hall
Supported by:
Councillor Dean Barrow; Councillor Stuart Hughes; Councillor Brian Bailey; Councillor Mark Williamson; Councillor Mike Howe; Councillor Iain Chubb; Councillor Simon Grundy’; Councillor Graham Godbeer; Councillor Tom Wright; Councillor Jenny Brown”


Local campaigner’s brilliant analysis of “development” in Devon

Georgina Allen is a local campaigner based in Totnes – suffering similar problems to East Devon. This has been published by the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE). For further information, see the South Devon Watch Facebook page

“The papers at the moment are full of grim warnings about the Green Belt. It is anticipated that seventy percent of new builds will be built within the Green Belt, very few of which are going to be affordable, none of which, I suspect are going to be well built or add anything to the landscape or to the lives of people who live there.

Our countryside is under threat is the general theme, but it is more than under threat, it is under attack. Already thousands of acres have been swallowed up by new mass developments. Little towns are consumed under the weight of great new estates, so often built without thought or reason other than to make money for distant shareholders.

This government has removed, as it loves to do, much of the restraint and red tape around the building industry. A few well placed lobbyists, the understanding that the ‘conservative’ part of the Conservative Party was on its way out and the housing plan was hatched. It’s all been very cleverly done.

The housing crisis was basically used as a smokescreen to hide the fact that the building industry was going to be used to prop up the economy. It’s a short term solution of course, not much of a solution at all really. It’s been used in so many other places and at the end fails, not until a lot of land has been ruined of course, but at least a few people make a lot of money.

We don’t have a shortage of homes, of course. What we have is a shortage of houses that people can actually buy. I was 35 when I bought my first house. The mortgage was three times that of my teacher’s salary. It was a stretch, but I coped and then, of course, house prices soared; my little house became a valuable asset and when I sold it, the price was above the reach of a similar teacher in my area.

This is the problem.

If the government actually wanted to solve the housing crisis, they would put money into social housing, control land value tax and limit the amount of housing that investors from overseas can buy. But of course they don’t. Osborne was caught on tape saying that he had no interest in social housing, – it only bred Labour supporters. At least that was honest. What isn’t honest is the way they’ve gone about building the myth of housing need to cover up the fact that they are lobbing enormous amounts of our money to the building industry.

I went to look at Canary Wharf recently. It’s still an impressive sight, all jostling, shiny towers, cranes everywhere, but a little investigation revealed that many of the new skyscrapers, the residential ones at least, are left empty. Investors come in right at the beginning, when the ink on the architectural drawings is still wet and buy the whole build, neglecting often to rent the new flats out – and why should they? If they are allowed to use our buildings as gold bricks, then it seems reasonable that they should keep the value of their investment high.

It makes sense to ensure that demand continues to outstrip supply and that the number of houses available to the public is limited. Thousands of new-builds are breaking the skyline in East London and yet this huge amount of building is yet to bring prices down. People move out of the centre because they can’t afford to live there and migrate to the outskirts, the outskirts get more expensive, so they move further out, dislodging the inhabitants there, who are moved even further out and so on and so on, the ripples continuing across the country. Our major cities are hollowed out and people live in areas they don’t necessarily want to be in, finding themselves dependent on their cars and transport to get them back to the place where they have a job.

By the time the ripples get to Devon, they’ve changed slightly.

These ripples are the people who have decided they no longer need to commute to the city. They discover they can buy two houses in Devon for the price of their one in the South East and realise that they can fund their retirement/break through a buy-to-let. This has been the pattern of movement around us in South Devon recently.

The new-builds, which were of course spun to seem as if they would solve our local housing issues, have often gone to people moving into the area. These builds come with all sorts of assurances as to improvements in infrastructure – anything over 14 houses is supposed to trigger money for healthcare, transport, leisure, – all sorts of things are promised. Local councillors talk grandly of new parks, new hospitals, but of course that doesn’t feed into the ultimate aim of all this building, which is to make money, so the government has cleverly inserted all sorts of get-out-of-jail free cards, which the developers are only too happy to take on.

Viability studies are the worst of these.

S106 monies are promised before the build at planning stage. The local council pauses, – they know that this new build on the edge of AONB will severely impact local roads, local services, destroy a farmer’s land, restrict access to a town, but they might well run the risk of being sued if they say no and at least afterwards they can point to all the lovely benefits – all that money coming in to improve the swimming pool, health care etc.

Planning permission is granted, work starts, ancient hedges are ripped up, protected trees are undermined, the wildlife disappears. Then a viability study is done. Ah, it appears that we won’t make enough profit if we build more than 10% of these houses as affordable, so here are our new plans. Also, sorry, but we have no money for S106s, as it proved a little more expensive than we realised to flatten this hill, so that money has gone too.

The council, hamstrung by the more than 40% overall cut to its budget and short of legal expertise and planners, has to agree. For example, we’re getting 1,200 houses around our little town of 8,000 and are yet to see the great improvements, any improvements in fact to our town’s infrastructure. There’s a need for housing we keep getting told. There’s a need for actual affordable housing and improvements to roads, we reply and are greeted by silence.

But the worst spin of all is the calculation of need. We need houses and to deny this is selfish and this is said across the political spectrum. So how is local need calculated?

Here in Devon, during devolution at least; local need was worked out by a group called the Local Enterprise Partnership, the LEP. These groups have evolved out of the old rural business development model and are in place across the country. Their primary role is to support business and investment in their region. and they are paid vast sums of money by the government to invest locally. So far, so good.

Just a quick look at their board. Our one at least seems to be made up almost entirely of property developers, arms manufacturers and the CEOs of major construction companies; almost all of the construction companies at work in the South West seem to be represented. Their conflict of interest declarations cover many pages. So these are the people who came up with the figures of housing need. The fact that they could benefit personally from having high figures here, does not seem to have been challenged in any meaningful way.

How did they come by the figures? They do not need to say, they are not an accountable organisation and the calculations behind these figures are not accessible to the general populace. There are three or so councillors on the board [our own Paul Diviani is one and he’s responsible for housing!]; they represent the democratic will of the people, the rest of their work is none of your business. The LEPs are not democratically elected, their meetings are held in secret, their minutes are concealed, their work is surrounded in mystery and yet they spend our money. They are funded with public money.

The audit office has criticised them, our councillors have criticised them, everyone does, but they are the creation of government and can take the criticism. The people on the board benefit directly from much of the building they do with the public purse. Their companies build the roads that lead to the new developments, their companies finance the new developments, their companies profit from the new business parks set up around the new developments. The conflicts of interest are so huge they seem to be forgotten about.

Newton Abbot is a case in point. Despite the fact that the population of Newton Abbot has hardly grown at all in the last five years, it was calculated by the LEP that the town housing stock would need to double in the next ten years.

I asked the head of Teignbridge planning – Why? The answer – Housing need. How was this calculated? Ah well, its a very complex process, which I personally do not fully understand. Ok, can you point me in the direction of someone who can explain? No. And that’s the typical response you get for any of this type of questioning.

The LEP was given a multi-million growth fund payment from the government. It’s widely understood by local councillors here that the 40% cut to council budgets has reappeared as payments to the LEP. Our council’s money has in part gone into financing a group we have no say over. £46 million of the growth fund money is going into the Newton Abbot expansion, despite the rejection of this plan by local residents. The money is going into widening the roads and building further access. Who is building the roads? Galliford Try. The CEO of Galliford Try is on the board of the LEP. Who made the decision to spend this money in Newton Abbot? The LEP. Who gave planning permission for this huge expansion into the green belt around Newton Abbot? The leader of the council led the decision. The leader of the council is on the board of the LEP.

I am not of course, saying that this is corrupt. It is not illegal, – it is happening the way it was intended by central government. These are the sweeteners to keep the building going. The government can say they’ve built new houses, – they point to these spurious housing need figures. The building industry is delighted of course, – they can build cut-price housing in the most desirable areas for the greatest returns. Local councils have been so starved of cash that the promise of new homes bonuses keep them pliable and if they complain, if doesn’t matter, they have no money to mount any type of challenge to development anyway.

The building trade and certain powerful councillors have formed alliances through the LEP, where they all profit through the public purse and can talk happily of growth and building. The only people left out of this equation are the people who actually need houses, local people, who are completely sidelined and ignored. Their wishes and needs are irrelevant.

The biggest loser though, of course, is our countryside, our most valuable resource. In survey after survey, the British people cite the NHS and the countryside as the most precious and valuable assets we have. Our countryside is invaluable really and to see it treated the way it is at the moment, for the profit of shareholders and government is sickening.”

Source: CPRE magazine

What do you have to do to get sacked if you are a Tory these days?

“As a prime minister drained of authority struggles to hold her party together, ambitious ministers feel increasingly able to cock a snook with impunity.

This week’s rows over Boris Johnson’s dangerous handling of a disagreement with Iran, and Priti Patel’s freelance policymaking in the Middle East may seem a coincidence.

But the conduct of the foreign secretary is bound together with that of the international development secretary.

Both Mr Johnson and Ms Patel are able to play fast and loose because normal collective cabinet disciplines no longer apply. The prime minister is afraid to reprimand or sack. In this government it is everyone for themselves. …”

and yet there are people who will continue to vote for them.

It says as much about their voters as it does about their Ministers and MPs.

And so many of their voters in East Devon – where we had our own mini-scandal when Diviani voted against his own district councillors at county council over closure of community hospitals.

Did Tory district councillors sack him? No, they rallied round him and agreed to keep him not just as a councillor but as their Leader.

Such is political life today. Thank you Tory voters – for worse than nothing.

Another council refers its hospital closure to Secretary of State

“The future of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital is going to the top, after councillors voted to refer the matter to the Health Secretary.

After the joint executive board of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last month voted unanimously in favour of permanently closing the inpatient ward and shaping the existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital, the proposed closure of the 12 beds was discussed by Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee this morning.

And now that closure is on hold and the final decision rests with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The aim of today’s meeting was to decide if the consultation with the committee had been adequate; if the committee felt the proposal would not be in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland; and therefore it it had sufficient evidence of these concerns to make a referral to the Secretary of State for Health. And as part of her statement to members, Katie Scott, from the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group, reflected on this first issue.

“Surely at all stages the scrutiny committee should have been consulted? It seems to us that you have been ignored,” she said. “I believe today is the first opportunity in over 14 months for the committee to fully examine the proposal to take away our beds.”

She also questioned the reasons put forward by the CCG for the proposed closure – the alleged savings, bed underuse and the drive to treat people in their own homes – claiming all are flawed, as well as saying the consultation has been ‘defective’.

However, Stephen Young, Northumberland CCG’s strategic head of corporate affairs, outlined the lengthy process of consultation, including with the committee, and explained that it was made clear to councillors that there was no local support for the proposed closure. He added: “We believe there’s alternative, suitable provision in the area.” His colleague, Dr Alistair Blair, the clinical chairman, set out the clinical reasons behind the proposed closure, which included the fall in bed occupancy and the wider national context around more care being provided at home and why this was beneficial.

He added that they had been monitoring the impact on healthcare services elsewhere in Northumberland for 12 months while the ward has been shut and there have been no adverse consequences. “We understand that this does not have local support but we have to look at the evidence base,” Dr Blair said. “We hope the Health and Wellbeing Centre will benefit more local people.”

One local who benefitted from the ward prior to its closure was Coun Steven Bridgett’s grandmother – the care she received at the hospital prior to her death in 2012 was the focus of an emotional address by the local ward member: “Gran was so well looked after and cared for that you would forget that she was 91 and had most of her body failing her.”

It was his statement which probably resonated most with the Rothbury residents who had filled the council chamber at County Hall in Morpeth. “We are no more than numbers on paper to the CCG,” he said. Turning their attention to the three questions mentioned above, a majority of the committee members considered that the consultation with the committee had not been adequate as the preferred option for consultation, ie, the closure of the ward and the creation of a Health and Wellbeing Centre, was decided and the consultation started before being brought to the scrutiny committee, albeit the CCG brought the matter to the first available meeting once that decision was taken.

A majority of the councillors also felt that whether the proposal was in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland could not be fully assessed as it had not been made clear exactly what the Health and Wellbeing Centre will be and there were also questions over the robustness of the data in relation to future-proofing and knock-on impacts in the rest of the county.

Therefore, following around half-an-hour spent thrashing out their reasons amid advice from the council’s senior legal officer, members voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. In each case, members voted by five votes to two with one abstention.”


Referrals by councils to Secretary of State increase – but not in Devon where local Tories said it wasn’t worth doing

“2017 is shaping up to be a bumper year for NHS service change proposals in England being referred to the Secretary of State for Health by local politicians. And that means a bumper year for initial assessments by IRP, the independent body that advises the Secretary of State. [This is what would have happened – mandatory independent scrutiny – if the DCC adult care scrutiny committee had not had a block Tory vote to refuse it – spurred on by Diviani ignoring the wishes of his own council and some very dubious chairing by Sarah Randall-Johnson. What were DCC Tories afraid of, Owl wonders?

We saw just two initial assessment letters in 2016. The assessment letter IRP published on 18 October responding to concerns raised by Thurrock Council about the location for a specialist scanner, is the fifth IRP has published this year and we’re waiting for more to progress through the system.

Local councillors are uniquely placed to understand public sensitivities around changes to local health services, so it’s no surprise that NHS legislation gives them a crucial role in overseeing health service change programmes. The role is important and the legislation sets out responsibilities for NHS and council leaders to make sure the process is effective.

The IRP’s assessment of the Thurrock referral is a timely reminder of the requirement for councils to formally join together to scrutinise proposals that affect more than one local authority area. In this case it seems Thurrock councillors declined to take part in a joint scrutiny committee and instead dealt with the matter on its own. The process is there for good reason and not following it risks weakening whatever good case a council has for making the referral.

The regulations allow councils to come together to form joint scrutiny committees whenever they see fit. The same regulations require councils to form a joint committee when “a relevant NHS body or health service provider consults more than one local authority’s health scrutiny function about substantial reconfiguration proposals”. The rules mean where a section 30 ‘mandatory joint health scrutiny committee’ is in place, only the mandatory committee is allowed to respond to the consultation; exercise the power to require information about the proposals to be provided to it; and require people from the relevant body to appear before it to answer questions relevant to the proposals.

The power to make referrals to the Secretary of State for Health is different. Councils can choose to delegate that to a mandatory joint scrutiny committee, or retain it. So the rules would have allowed Thurrock to participate in the mandatory committee and still consider the matter of referral alone. Would it have strengthened their case to have done that? It’s hard to envisage that following the required process would have weakened it.”


Want to comment on LEP’s business plan for us? Go to Torbay council website says Sidmouth Herald!

Sidmouth Herald (as part of Archant a BIG supporter of our LEP) prints a press release on the Sidmouth Herald website on “consultation” on the LEP’s new, improved, answer to all our prayers business plan, citing the enthusiastic words of Paul Diviani, the Deputy Chair of an un-named committee.

Unfortunately, according to the press release, the consultation document appears to be only on Torbay’s website! No link to an EDDC website or the LEP’s own website!


Perhaps the first consultation comment might be: put your own house in order before you attempt to put a nuclear cell in those of other people!

Here is the press release, in full, in all its glory, where 20 or so business and council members, many with nuclear interests or nuclear-industry-supporting industries attempt to persuade the rest of us that most of their (ie our) money going to Hinkley C is a good thing:

County and district councils in the two counties, along with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Dartmoor and Exmoor national park authorities, and NHS commissioning groups from Northern, Eastern and Western Devon, South Devon and Torbay, and Somerset, have worked together to come up with a draft productivity strategy for the area, referred to as the Heart of the South West.

This has now been put out for a consultation, which will run until November 30.

The partnership is said to be seeking the views of businesses, organisations, groups and individuals.

It says its ambition is to double the size of the area’s economy to £70 billion by 2036 and is seeking the right interventions and Government backing to achieve this.

The partnership says the area has ‘unprecedented opportunities’ in sectors including nuclear, marine, rural productivity, health and care, aerospace and advanced engineering, and data analytics.

Councillor Paul Diviani, deputy chair of the prospective joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West, said: “The Heart of the South West economy is larger than that of Birmingham, so we need to be recognised for our true potential as a cohesive economic area.

“Our vision is for all parts of the Heart of the South West to become more prosperous, enabling people to have a better quality of life and higher living standards.

“To achieve that, we have to create a more vibrant and competitive economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone, and by working in partnership we can present a stronger proposition.

“We urge our stakeholders in business and the wider community to give us their views and help us create an effective strategy for delivery.”

The results from the consultation will be considered by the joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West and the Heart of the South West LEP board, before a final productivity strategy is agreed early in 2018.

The consultation documents are available to view on Torbay Council’s website at