“Headteacher acclaimed by Tories is banned from teaching”

“The headteacher of a high profile multi-academy trust, which won plaudits from former prime minister David Cameron and his then education secretary Michael Gove, has been banned from teaching indefinitely.

Liam Nolan, who was executive headteacher and chief executive of the now defunct Perry Beeches academy trust in Birmingham, was found guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct” after a hearing before the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).

Acknowledging Nolan’s contribution to the teaching profession, the TRA report said he should be allowed to apply to have the prohibition order lifted after a minimum two-year period, which would give him time to “reflect on his failings”.

The prohibition order against Nolan is the latest chapter in the demise of the Perry Beeches academy chain, which was stripped of its five schools after an investigation revealed financial irregularities at the trust, including third-party payments to Nolan, on top of his £120,000 salary as executive headteacher.

The Education Funding Agency investigation found nearly £1.3m in payments without contracts to a third-party supplier, a private company called Nexus. That company also subcontracted to a company named Liam Nolan Ltd, paying Nolan a second salary for his role as chief executive officer of the trust.

At the time, critics of the government’s academies policy, which takes schools out of local authority control, said the case should ring alarm bells over the accountability and financial management of academy chains and the government’s ability to police the system.

The TRA hearing found that Nolan failed to comply with recognised procedures and principles in relation to management of public funds and was in breach of the academies’ financial handbook, which sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements for all academy trusts.

“Mr Nolan stated in his evidence that he was under pressure in developing the Perry Beeches schools and that it was against this background that he made what he described as mistakes,” the TRA report said. “However, the panel was not convinced this justified his lack of integrity in managing public finances. Although Mr Nolan apologised for some of his failings as accounting officer, there did not appear to be sufficient insight into the seriousness of those failings or his responsibility in that post.”

Cameron opened one of Perry Beeches’ new free schools in 2013, when the then prime minister praised the “brilliant team” at the trust. In 2012, Nolan addressed the Conservative party conference and appeared on stage with the then education secretary Michael Gove, who described Nolan as “wonderful”.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/nov/05/headteacher-acclaimed-by-tories-is-banned-from-teaching

“Tory MP Philip Davies lavishes praise on Esther McVey – but misses crucial detail” (they live together – mostly)

“Philip Davies lavished praise on the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey for her work on Universal Credit. He told MPs: “I know better than most how hard the Secretary of State worked to get the support from the Chancellor in the Budget. “Can I commend her for doing that.”

But the Tory MP failed to mention that they are not just parliamentary colleagues. The pair have long been close, arriving at a Tory fundraiser in February arm-in-arm and leaving hand-in-hand.

In March Ms McVey was quoted in the Daily Mail saying: “We’re partners but we haven’t done any official commitment stuff… yet.” It’s understood that they have had an on-off relationship for around five years and live together in London. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mp-philip-davies-lavishes-13540557

MPs who accepted hospitality from the betting industry

A reduction from £100 per bet to £2 per bet, agreed by the government, has been postponed and the Minister for Sport has resigned saying vested interests were allowed to influence the decision. The current high rate is reckoned to lead to many suicides. It is thought the decision has been postponed to raise revenue for the government to assist with post-Brexit issues.

Sixteen MPs have declared hospitality received from the betting industry. Nine were Labour MPs, six Conservative and one SNP:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46076119

“Optum CEO resigns from top NHS Job, Optum partner replaces him”

“This is an everyday story of the sordid revolving door between US Health insurance company United Health and the NHS.

In the UK, United Health’s subsidiary Optum sells the NHS what it needs in order to morph into a version of United Health – the previous employer of NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens.

With NHS England’s blessing, Optum is all over the NHS, installing their technology & redesigning the NHS through its use.

Optum sells the NHS:

Commissioning support services
Scriptswitch decision support for GP prescribing (which United Health UK acquired in 2009) is in most GP surgeries.
Referral management services
GP Empower (accelerating large scale GP practices

Integrated Care Systems support: “Optum® brings practical hands-on experience having delivered integrated care for over 20 years in the US. Our tried and tested approach has helped systems deliver proven results.” This updates an earlier brochure on accountable care systems/organisations which is no longer available. However NHS For Sale quotes Optum’s now defunct webpage: “We currently operate 26 accountable care organisations in the U.S., and are supporting sustainability and transformation partnerships in the U.K. to manage population health risk and deliver care as an integrated group of providers.”

The overall aim is to control, sideline and override doctors’ treatment decisions – as we can see through NHS England’s consultation on stopping funding numerous elective care treatments and its mandatory Integrated Urgent Care Services specification. This removes patients’ direct access to clinicians and redirects them through NHS 111 to a clinical advisory service that works off the algorithms in a clinical decision support tool.

And now it has its finger firmly in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence pie – the organisation responsible for providing evidence-based guidance and advice to the NHS.

The revolving door that connnects United Health, Optum and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence

This concerns:

former United Health Director Andrew Witty
Lord Darzi (head of the Imperial College department which is partnered with OptumLabs, a United Health business); and
a new public-private partnership in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence called the “Accelerated Access Collaborative“, that’s about pushing new technology and drugs through the NHS.
It puts Optum centre stage in the Accelerated Access Collaborative. Now there’s a surprise. Or not. If you have been following United Health’s relatively rapid takeover of the NHS.

As a result of these shenanigans, we would treat any new recommendation from NICE with a pinch of salt.

Here is a short Witty timeline:

March 2017 – Andrew Witty leaves CEO position at Glaxo Smith Kline
August 2017 – Witty joins UnitedHealth’s Board of Directors
November 2017 – Following the Accelerated Access Review, the Department of Health appoints Witty as head of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The job is to fast track drugs & technology into the NHS, to start April 2018
March 2018 – United Health announces Witty to be new Optum CEO, to start July 2018
Andrew Witty must have been rumbled somewhere along the line as he graciously resigned from the Government position in March 2018, due to the enormous conflict of interest of him starting as Optum CEO in July 2018. Ignored of course was the huge conflict of interest in hiring Witty in the first place while he was a Director of UnitedHealth.

And who replaced him? Lord Darzi.

Who is Lord Darzi

I am tired of writing about Lord Darzi. He stalks the NHS like a zombie. He was behind the New Labour government’s massive, failed and costly privatisation of elective NHS services in the horrible Independent Sector Treatment Centres – one of which totally messed up my son’s broken wrist – twice, before an NHS hospital fixed it for him.

This is what his nasty scheme has come to now. Regardless, he has returned to push his idea a second time as Accountable Care – with the apparent support of the Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. This time from his perch in the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College, London.

Which, surprise surprise, is an OptumLabs partner.

What is OptumLabs

OptumLabs (launched in 2013) is all about United Health number crunching and framing raw patient data for academics to play with to derive the “best treatments” for patients.

OptumLabs is desperate to pass itself off as pioneering and respectable in the academic research field. But reality of the profit motive and UnitedHealth’s track record of

“deception, manipulation of data and outright fraud”

(see the Ingenix case ) means their number crunching will most likely point to treatments that United Health finds most profitable, not what’s best for patients. And OptumLabs is useful cover to collect patient data.

We pointed out some time ago Optum’s invidious position as a provider of commissioning support services, able to direct Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission Optum products. Now they have their fingers in the NICE pie too.”

https://calderdaleandkirklees999callforthenhs.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/optum-ceo-resigns-from-top-nhs-job-optum-partner-replaces-him/

Labour MP who voted NOT to investigate bullying to chair Commons Standards Committee because no-one else wanted the job

“A Labour MP who voted against a probe into allegations of bullying by Speaker John Bercow has been elected as chair of the Commons standards committee.

Kate Green was one of three MPs to oppose an inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into claims against Mr Bercow, which he denies.

She was elected unopposed to the body after no other candidate came forward.” …

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45867687

“A land banking scandal is controlling the future of British housing”

“How often have you heard private developers and their allies say they can’t build more homes because planning rules have created a shortage of land?

Kate Andrews of the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) summed up this view in The Daily Telegraph, saying: “There is only one way to solve the housing crisis and bring down the extortionate cost of homes: liberalise the planning system and build more houses. A bold but pragmatic policy would be to release greenbelt land – just a small fraction of which would be enough to build the million homes needed to address supply.”

A million more homes? That’s a tantalising prospect. So is there any basis for her argument that the only way to solve this problem is to liberalise (or deregulate) planning?

A little digging into the latest financial reports of the top 10 housebuilders reveals a very different story. Between them, they have a staggering 632,785 building plots on their books, of which more than half have planning permission. At the same time, these 10 companies reported building a total of just 79,704 homes – which means they have, on average, eight-years’ worth of plots in their land banks at the current rate of construction.

Among the top 10, there is a wide variation. At the upper end, Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey are hoarding 15 and 13 years’ worth of land respectively. At the lower end, McCarthy & Stone and Bellway have land banks equivalent to four years’ current output. The difference is mainly in what are known as the ‘strategic’ land banks – reserves that have not yet gained planning permission. All ten have ample land with consent, ranging from three to five years’ worth of output.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017.

It is often the case that the stories an industry feeds to the media are at odds with the trading information individual companies give shareholders via regulated stock market announcements. A classic example of this is car insurance where the industry body complained of an “epidemic of fraud” while the major providers told the market that claims volumes were falling.

In the case of housing, the market reports of the top 10 builders are brimming with confidence about future trading. You might expect Bellway, for example, to be feeling the pinch from a supposedly burdensome planning system because of its smaller-than-average land bank. But its trading update in August said that it had detailed planning permission on all its 2019 building plots and had increased land acquisition by 12 per cent to an annual level 30 per cent higher than its output. “The land market remains favourable and continues to provide attractive opportunities,” the company said.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017. So, what about the other players? Information is patchy because many are private companies, but random checks on those that are publicly listed suggest that smaller housebuilders also hold enough land to keep them going for years.

And then there are the companies that combine building homes with developing sites to sell on to other builders. The latest trading update from Inland Homes, for example, said that in the first six months of this year it has built 357 units and sold 837 plots to other housebuilders but still has 6,808 in its land bank – nearly six times as many as it built on or sold.

The pattern is clear: across the private housebuilding sector big land banks are the norm. If the top 10 companies – equating to half the market – are hoarding 600,000-plus plots, it is safe to assume that well over a million plots are in the land banks of the sector as a whole. Far from needing greenbelt land, the builders already have enough plots to deliver a step-change.

But will they? The IEA believes ‘markets’ solve economic and social problems, but the last 30 years have shown that is certainly not the case with housebuilding. When Margaret Thatcher slashed funding for council housing in the 1980s, the idea was that the private sector would fill the gap. But it didn’t happen: while the number of homes built by councils slumped from 110,170 in 1978 to 1,740 in 1996, private sector output stayed at much the same level as it was under Labour in the 1970s. With housing association output also virtually unchanged, total housebuilding has halved from more than 300,000 annually under Jim Callaghan to an average of 154,000 since 2010.

This situation suits housebuilders nicely. Constrained supply has helped push up the average price of a new house by 38 per cent since 2010, against an average of 30 per cent for all houses. And booming prices have in turn generated record-breaking profits and dividends. Taylor Wimpey, for example, cleared a £52,947 profit on each of the 6,497 houses it sold (at an average price of £295,000) in the first six months of 2018 and was able to promise shareholders that it would pay out £600m in dividends in 2019, a 20 per cent increase on 2018.

The government has responded to growing anger about land banks by setting up a review under Tory MP Oliver Letwin to “explain” why the “build-out rate” on land with planning permission is so slow. Letwin’s interim report has already admitted that housebuilders complete homes at a pace “designed to protect their profits”. His final report is due in time for the Autumn Budget, but don’t expect anything radical: he has made clear that his recommendations won’t “impair” the housebuilders.

Labour, meanwhile, has published a wide-ranging green paper promising “the biggest council housebuilding programme for over 30 years” delivering more than 100,000 “genuinely affordable” homes annually. To achieve this, Labour would use existing public land, such as sites owned by the NHS and the Ministry of Defence, and set up a Sovereign Land Trust to work with local authorities in England to help them acquire land at lower prices. Taking inspiration from the 1945 Labour government, it would also legislate to create another generation of new towns and garden cities.

Labour’s policy would, in effect, draw a line under the Thatcher era by restoring to the public sector the proactive role it played in providing housing prior to the 1980s. In doing so, it would limit the scope for the big housebuilders to hoover up nearly all the available sites and hoard them in order to drive up prices and profits. As for planning, far from being the cause of the housing crisis, it would be a means of solving it.

Steve Howell is a journalist and author of Game Changer, the story of Labour’s 2017 election campaign.”

https://www.bigissue.com/latest/finance/a-land-banking-scandal-is-controlling-the-future-of-british-housing/

West Midlands mayor must travel in luxury to help the homeless

“A Tory mayor has sparked outrage after spending £500 of taxpayers’ cash on a chauffeur to drive him to a meeting on homelessness.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street splashed the “obscene” sum on the “exclusive” service to take him and an aide to Heathrow Airport and back home again.

In his manifesto when he ran to become mayor, Mr Street insisted: “I want to keep the costs of the mayor’s office as low as possible.”

The lavish spending by the former John Lewis boss can be exposed by The Mirror after his travel costs were revealed under freedom of information laws.

Birmingham Labour MP Steve McCabe branded the chauffeur-driven journey “obscene”, adding: “The money would have been better spent on night shelters and soup kitchens here in the West Midlands.”

The number of people forced to sleep rough in the West Midlands has shot up since 2010.

In November 2017, Mr Street visited Helsinki, Finland, in November 2017 to see an approach to tackling homelessness called Housing First.

Invoices obtained under freedom of information laws show the one-day trip cost £2,216.88.

The cost included a bill for £530.40 to transport an aide from Birmingham and Mr Street from Westminster to Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport.

The chauffeur then drove the pair back from London to Birmingham at the end of the day.

The website of the chauffeur company, Chauffeured By Car, says it operates a “discreet, professional service” offering “first class luxury travel”.

It adds: “You can simply relax, leave all the worry about directions and traffic to us, and enjoy the journey. To Chauffeured By Car your journey is our passion and we are committed to providing you with a world-class service.”

Detailing the one-day Helsinki trip, documents from West Midlands Combined Authority say: “Housing and land use is a key priority for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

“As part of this one of the key areas the mayor is focusing on is homelessness and rough sleeping. This visit represented a fact finding and lessons learnt exercise on homelessness issues.”

Housing First is credited with making Finland the only European country to see a fall in long-term homelessness in recent years.

It has been successful at ending homelessness for at least eight out of 10 people in the scheme.

This is compared to hostel-based accommodation which has resulted in between 40% and 60% of users with complex needs leaving, or ejected, before their homelessness is resolved.

Mr Street claims the Helsinki trip helped him secure £9.6million in funding in May this year for the West Midlands to try to end the scandal of rough sleeping in the region.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mayor-splashes-500-taxpayers-13421748