More political fallout from general election voting blunders

Some very familiar failings.

The continuing fallout from the general election blunders in Newcastle-under-Lyme seem to have caused the fall of the Labour administration on the council:

Elizabeth Shenton stood down as the leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council after losing the support of independents. The Conservatives have now taken control from Labour.

Almost 1,500 people were unable to vote in a constituency that saw the successful MP win by just 30 votes.

Two council officials were suspended last month.

Chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, were criticised for a number of issues. [BBC]

The problems covered people being left off the electoral register, postal votes not being sent out and also two people being able to vote when they were not legally qualified.

Despite the confirmation of major errors in how the election was run, this won’t result in any MP being unseated or election being re-run as no election petition was filed within the tight post-election deadline.

If any Liberal Democrat readers from other parts of the country think the name of the Labour now ex-council leader is familiar, they’d be right. Elizabeth Shenton used to be a Liberal Democrat, standing in the 2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/153058/elizabeth-shenton-newcastle/

“British elections at risk from perfect storm of threats, says watchdog”

“The head of the elections watchdog has demanded urgent reform of the UK’s electoral laws and warned that the country faces a “perfect storm” of threats that could put the integrity of the system at risk.

Sir John Holmes, the chair of the Electoral Commission, also confirmed to the Guardian that the body has launched an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the EU referendum and is waiting for evidence from Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The regulator said that in order to police the electoral system properly, and hold politicians and campaigns to account, wholesale changes were necessary.

“We must avoid complacency to stop a perfect storm from forming which would put out democratic processes in peril,” he said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Holmes outlined a set of reform proposals which include:

New rules to require political campaigners to identify themselves on online advertising to combat Russian or other external interference in elections.

Increases in fines for political parties that find ways around election spending laws or fail to declare the source of their funding.

A new system requiring all voters to show photographic ID in polling stations.

A move away from only conducting votes on Thursdays and in schools or community halls. …

… “Electoral legislation is old, complicated and needs changing. There are proposals to do that. The government needs to give it legislative time,” Holmes said. …

… Following investigations into how the Conservative party moved campaigners and staff from its national headquarters to boost local party efforts in 2014 and 2015 – without properly declaring their hotel bills and expenses – the party was fined £70,000.

However, Holmes said the level of fines has to be increased to stop parties from taking such risks.

“Our ability to fine £20,000 for any single offence is not enough as an effective deterrent,” he said.

“Looking at the fines other regulators can apply, £20,000 looks fairly minimal. We think it should be bigger.”

Holmes also said the government should consider extending the use of photo identification at polling stations.

This suggestion follows allegations of widespread voting fraud, particularly around Asian communities in Birmingham, Bradford and east London.

The commission recommended in 2014 that voters should be required to prove their identities before casting a ballot, in the wake of widespread voter fraud in Tower Hamlets.

Critics of the plan say it potentially disenfranchises large numbers of people on low incomes who do not have photo ID.

Voting laws should also be reformed to allow new ways of voting, Holmes added.

“We should look at changes for a new generation of millennials who are the digital generation.

“We are not saying that we should move now to online voting because of the risks of hacking but that doesn’t mean that nothing ought to change.

“We need to ask ourselves whether voting on a Thursday in an old school building is the only way we can do this.”

The commission will release a report on Wednesday into the performance of returning officers at this year’s general election, with Holmes set to outline his proposalsin a speech to the Institute for Government later in the day.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/05/british-elections-at-risk-from-perfect-storm-of-threats-says-watchdog

RDE rushes ahead with unaccountable “Accountable Care Organisation” plans

[By total coincidence, of course, Tiverton has the only local 24 bed PFI-funded community hospital which cannot therefore be closed].

NEWS RELEASE
Tuesday 5 December 2017

“Tiverton GP practice due to join hospital trust – pioneering the way for Devon’s first primary and secondary health care integration

On 2 January 2018, Tiverton’s Castle Place Practice and its 50 members of staff*, including GPs, plan to join the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E). This new venture will be the first of its kind in Devon and will provide locally-led seamless care for the Tiverton community
This move fits with the direction of the NHS Five Year Forward View and offers better integrated working by removing organisational barriers. Castle Place is already co-located with Tiverton Community Hospital and has an established close working relationship with the Trust’s community teams so it was a pragmatic option for the practice to approach the RD&E with the proposal to explore a fully integrated model. Whilst offering the opportunity to work differently for the benefit of all the local community, it will also help address some of the challenges faced by primary care, particularly the difficulty in recruiting new GP partners and balancing time for clinical care with the demands of running a business.

Dr James Squire, GP Partner at Castle Place, explains: “This is an exciting new venture for us and one in which our patients’ best interests are central to our rationale for pursuing this change. I’d like to reassure our patients that in the short-term there will be no changes to the services we offer and in the longer-term will only provide better care.

“The ever increasing challenges and pressures are resulting in necessary changes right across the healthcare system. Thankfully, due to our focus on person-centred, continuity of care we have managed to fare some of these challenges well but we know that to maintain this for our current patients and future generations we need to explore new ways of working. There are a number of different ways GPs could adapt but it was important for us that we secured a future which was true to our core values and principles. Joining the RD&E gives us an opportunity to concentrate our efforts on leading and providing excellent clinical care in a way that’s right for our community”.

“This is a bold step for us but the whole team here is motivated to test new ways of working, not only between the practice and the hospital but also with the community services for our population, and we are really keen to share our experiences and learning for the wider benefit.”

Suzanne Tracey, RD&E Chief Executive, said: “At the RD&E we are prioritising working more closely with local health and care partners to support a move towards ‘place-based care’. This is the future of healthcare and we want to help create the conditions which enable communities to take the lead. To achieve this, we envisage working with our partners in a number of exciting and different ways and this proposal initiated by the Castle Place Practice in Tiverton is a great opportunity to put this into practice.

“Whether in primary or secondary care, all of us want to do what’s right for the person and right for a community but sometimes competing demands, targets and finances can get in the way or slow the pace of change. The partnership with Castle Place Practice is a great opportunity for us to work together with GPs to develop more proactive care which keeps people well and independent in their own communities.”

Castle Place Practice’s 15,000 registered patients, which is around half of Tiverton’s population, will see no immediate changes. Staff will continue in their existing roles, patients’ named GP will not change and access to appointments and services will continue in exactly the same way. However, in the longer term it will enable and increase the opportunities for better management of long term conditions plus improve access to care at home and in the community.”

Hinkley C gets its own posh hotel thanks to OUR LEP

Anyone know of any hotel that got LEP funding in Devon? Seaton, Honiton Premier Inns perhaps? Certainly not!

From an LEP report:

“In October Deepak Chainrai of DC Hotels (Bridgwater) Ltd welcomed representatives from HotSW LEP, Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council to the site of the new Mercure Bridgwater Hotel, which is visibly taking shape, as an opportunity for all to see the work and progress behind the construction hoarding.

Before touring all five floors, the group was shown around the lobby area, meeting rooms, lounge and bar, leading to the destination restaurant that will be operated by The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill.

The new hotel was partly financed by a loan from the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, which aims to get projects off the ground that would otherwise not be immediately served by the commercial marketplace. The site is strategically placed as an asset for the area with the development of the nearby Hinkley Point C. The establishment of a modern hotel with an international restaurant chain and commercial units is an important amenity that will boost the local economy and generate new jobs.”

DCC Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee savages HOTSW Growth Strategy

NOW THAT’S HOW YOU DO SCRUTINY!
(Thanks to Independent East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw for bringing to the committee 10 of the 11 points and Budleigh resident David Daniel for his succinct 3 minute take-down of the original document)
at:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/11/30/watch-eda-councillor-shaw-and-budleigh-resident-david-daniel-make-most-sense-on-lep-strategy/

Heart of the South West Joint Committee and Draft Productivity Strategy (Cabinet Minute 77/8 November 2017)

Minute 31:

“The Committee received the Joint Report of the Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills and the Head of Organisational Development (EES/17/5) providing information on the Heart of the South West Joint Committee and the draft Productivity Strategy, which was currently being consulted on and which highlighted a number of challenges facing the Heart of the South West area.

The consultation period had been extended to 14 December 2017 and an Action Plan would be shared with the Committee at a future meeting.

RESOLVED that

the Committee note the work to develop a Joint Committee and that, to enable a bid for devolved powers and funds to be successful, revisions were suggested to be made to the Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy, taking the following comments into account, namely:-

(a) the ambition to double the size of the economy in 18 years, involving an annual growth rate of 3.94%, was unrealistic given that the regional annual rate over the last 18 years had been 1.5% and the national growth rate, which had not exceeded 3% in a single year during that period, was now forecast to average less than 1.5% per annum in the next five years;

(b) the early ambitious aim of moving from less than average to above average productivity was not credible since the Strategy lacked the wide range of specific proposals needed to raise productivity across the board and contained little detail on how gaps in higher skills level would be filled;

(c) the Strategy did not adequately address the obstacles to higher than average productivity in sectors with endemic low pay and casual working, like social care and hospitality, which were disproportionately represented in the local economy, by our older than average population, and by under-employment;

(d) the Strategy said little about rural Devon and needed to include the key recommendations of the South West Rural Productivity Commission;

(e) the Strategy did not emphasise sufficiently the shortfall in broadband provision and the radical investment needed if Devon were not to fall further behind other regions;

(f) the Strategy did not provide details of the opportunities of Brexit, which it mentioned, nor did it take account of risks such as a decline in investment due to uncertainty, issues for firms exporting to Europe if the UK was not part of a customs union, and threats to the knowledge element of our economy due to universities losing EU staff and research opportunities;

(g) the Strategy needed to show how Devon would respond to automation and Artificial Intelligence;

(h) the Strategy needed to indicate clear performance indicators through which success could be measured;

(i) the Strategy needed to align more explicitly with the Government’s new Industrial Strategy and ‘Sector deals’ which may provide funding;

(j) the Strategy needed to explain what kind of devolution would help meet aspirations and articulate clear, realistic selling points and questions of Government; and

(k) the Strategy needed to include proposals to bring forward all forms of transport, including rail, which improved accessibility to the Peninsular.”

http://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/g2578/Printed%20minutes%2028th-Nov-2017%2014.15%20Corporate%20Infrastructure%20and%20Regulatory%20Services%20Scrutiny%20Comm.pdf?T=1

Watch EDA councillor Shaw and Budleigh resident David Daniel make most sense on LEP “strategy”

Jump to 2 hours into the meeting to see these two local people talk total sense to a bunch of mostly Tory councillors most of whom seem to understand beggar-all about why they are there!

Mr Daniel – a former government strategic analyst is at around 15 minutes into the meeting and speaks persuasively about why the Heart of the South West LEP strategy is totally unachievable. Independent East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (whose forensic report was totally accepted with one additional point added) is at around 2 hours into the meeting speaking on why the report before the councillors is style over substance and dangerous to go along with in its current form.

In Owl’s opinion, they run rings around the rest of the committee!

Although one councillor did make a point (Owl is paraphrasing here!} that this is an 18 year “strategy” and could well be redundant in a few years – when some other crazy idea might replace it!

https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/303464

CEO and Head of Audit suspended after irregularities in voting at General Election

Here in East Devon there were numerous mistakes made by our election officers but, so far, they have avoided examination or censure.

Nothing will change till electoral officers have to legally submit budgets of exactly how much money they spent (or did not spend), how much extra they were paid to do the job (average £10-20,000 per election, some got much more) AND they come under the Freedom of Information spotlight (they are currently exempted).

“Almost 1,500 voters were unable to take part in a general election contest which was won by just 30 votes, an independent inquiry has concluded.

Two senior officials in Newcastle-under-Lyme were suspended today following damning investigation into the June 8 election.

Newcastle Borough Council chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, have been criticised for a number of issues by the Association of Electoral Administrators.

It found 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, nearly 1,000 potential electors were not included on the voting register and two people were able to vote who were not eligible to.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held off a charge from Tory Owen Meredith to hold Newcastle-under-Lyme with a reduced majority.

The election cannot be re-run because complaints about the running of a poll must be made within 21 days.

But the probe concluded the result could have been different if the wrongly excluded voters had been allowed to take part.

The investigators it was ‘impossible not to question the result’ and detailed a ‘complex picture of administrative mistakes around registration and postal voting processes’.

There was an ‘inadequate performance by inexperienced and under-resourced elections office staff’, the report found.

Mr Farrelly described the election arrangements as a ‘shambles’ in the aftermath of the poll.

Mr Meredith said today: ‘It is vital lessons are learnt from this experience and that the recommendations of the report are implemented in full.
‘Urgent action must be taken by Newcastle Borough Council to ensure the credibility of upcoming council by-elections in December and the all-out elections in May.

‘Voters will be rightly horrified by the details of the report’s findings and trust in the democratic process in Newcastle-under-Lyme has been badly undermined. Urgent action is needed to restore that trust.

‘Voters have been truly let down by the Council officers and leadership and those involved must consider their positions.’

Council leader Elizabeth Shenton, said: ‘I sincerely apologise on behalf of the council for that situation but we can’t turn the clock back and right any wrong that occurred at that time.’

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: ‘Good planning and open communication are vital to ensure voters can receive the quality of service they deserve.

‘Both our guidance and this independent report recognise these factors.
‘We will now consider this report’s findings as part of our assessment of how Returning Officers performed at June’s election.

‘The Commission will continue to support and challenge the performance of the electoral services department at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to ensure forthcoming elections are well-run.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5125083/1-500-people-STOPPED-taking-election.html