“Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis”

One of the examples cited in the article is from Cranbrook. See last paragraph of this post. Though most problems in this area seem to centre on Axminster.

Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, faces a potential class-action lawsuit from a group of buyers who accuse it of selling houses riddled with defects.

Puneet Verma bought a five-bedroom house with his wife for £485,000 in Milton Keynes two years ago but says he still has a list of 120 snags. He is now consulting two law firms, Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon, about taking group action.

“I have had a survey done by a chartered surveyor that categorically states the workmanship is extremely poor and that Bovis is not in compliance with building regulations,” Verma says. “Bovis has treated, and continues to treat, its customers appallingly and now the only way to get our problems resolved is to take legal action.”

Verma is aiming to raise a £100,000 fund through a £100 contribution per homeowner, assuming 1,000 of the 2,500-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook sign up.

It has been almost a year since the housebuilder issued a profit warning and was accused of paying thousands of pounds in cash incentives to get buyers to move into unfinished homes. As the scandal widened, the company set aside £7m to fix defects and appointed a new chief executive.

A year on, some Bovis homeowners say they will be spending Christmas in houses that are riddled with faults, including leaks, moving and creaking floors, lack of insulation and sewage backups, as well coping with shoddy workmanship.

Ian Tyler, the chairman of Bovis, apologised to buyers in May for “letting them down” and admitted the firm had been cutting corners to hit ambitious targets. The company says it slowed production to iron out build problems, retrained sales staff and set up an advisory homebuyers panel, which has met once.

Dave Howard, who set up the Facebook group with his wife, Ann, and who sits on the panel, doubts whether Bovis has made any progress on improving build standards and customer service. He claims homeowners who report problems are being referred to the National House Building Council (NHBC), the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK. But in the first two years after purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects.

“We have had constructive contact with the new customer experience director, but there are too many people hitting brick walls with Bovis and NHBC,” Howard says. “Some new customers have had better experiences but that seems to have slipped too.”

Bovis says: “We have made significant changes to how we operate in 2017 and a growing majority of our customers would now recommend us to family and friends.

“We remain determined to make things right for customers who raise warranty items and apologise to those to whom we have not previously delivered the high levels of quality and service they rightly expected.” …”

[The article concludes with several examples of bad workmanship in various parts of the country including this one] …

Pete Oldham and his wife, a retired couple, bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Cranbrook, Devon, for £234,995 in December 2015. “All the floors move,” Oldham says. “When you walk into a room the furniture moves. They haven’t fitted things properly but are in denial.” He says the floor joists should be 400mm apart, not 600mm. There has been a breakdown in communication with Bovis and he has been referred to NHBC.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/09/bovis-homebuyers-class-action-lawsuit-property-defects

Exmouth: Christmas market with not much Christmas spirit?

”There’s been mixed reaction to the “cracking” Christmas market, which took place at Exmouth Ocean on Sunday, December 3. Some visitors enjoyed the event, describing it as ‘an enjoyable day’, ‘fab’ and ‘a lovely time’. But others said it was a ‘health and safety nightmare’, with ‘no emergency procedure for elderly, infirm or young mothers’. One visitor went further, saying they thought the people of Exmouth had been ‘shortchanged’, and describing the event as a ‘creaking Christmas market’.

In response, LED, which organised the event, has admitted that the market had “a few teething problems”, but say that for its first event of this nature “about 5,000 people attended what was generally perceived to be a great event”.

The ‘cracking’ Christmas Market, with additional entertainment provided by Exmouth Town Council, was promoted as a replacement for the cancelled Christmas Cracker. With entertainment on other floors, the market itself took place on the top-floor Ocean Suite and outside terraces.

Visitors found there were problems with access to the market, as there was only one small lift, reserved for those with limited mobility and mothers with buggies. Consequently the stairs became clogged and LED staff restricted the numbers who were allowed in. At times it’s understood that crowds were three deep on the stairs, and the lift broke down, allegedly trapping a person in a wheelchair.

Visitors took to social media to praise and criticise the event. One community group described the event as ‘a really enjoyable day’, and that customers were ‘generous and appreciative’. Other comments included ‘fab’ and ‘a fun day’. However, one visitor, who did not wish to be named, was unhappy, flagging up over-crowding, uninspired stalls and mulled wine – served by LED – that was cold. It was not a particularly inspired craft market with nothing to distinguish it as a Christmas event. The bar was offering a festive menu, but when you’ve got cold mulled wine, how festive is that? “I think it was very sad. The people of Exmouth have been short-changed. A cracking Christmas market? More like a creaking Christmas market!”

LED Leisure has defended its festive offering, saying it was a ‘super event for Exmouth’. “In response to the few negative comments that have been received by the Journal, LED Leisure welcomes constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve,” said Peter Gilpin, chief executive officer, LED Leisure. “As our first event of this nature, it was probably inevitable that there would be a few teething problems. Despite these few problems, about 5,000 people attended what was generally perceived to be a great event – so no wonder there were queues to get in at some times of the day!

“We received many compliments from visitors, who despite the wait loved the Christmas gifts, sweets, music and entertainment. Between them, Ocean and the Pavilion had over 90 stalls, including some that were accommodated from the cancelled Christmas Cracker event from the Strand, at fairly late notice. Stall holders were also very complimentary – they were busy all day!”

Mr Gilpin also thanked Lisa Hamer, Janette Cass and their respective teams at Ocean and the Pavilion ‘for putting on what I think was, overall, a super event for Exmouth – 5,000 people having a great time on Exmouth seafront in December; whatever next?!’ “

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/mixed-reaction-to-exmouth-s-cracking-christmas-market-1-5310426

“The Guardian view on social housing: time to fight for affordable rents”

“ …On Friday the specialist journal Inside Housing published research that showed a new and significant factor behind the sharp rise in the numbers relying on emergency support.

The right to buy, first introduced in 1980, already abandoned in Scotland and soon in Wales, was successfully reinvigorated in England by David Cameron five years ago. It has been a boon to the buy-to-let market and a curse on councils that find themselves renting them back at hugely inflated cost.

Soaring house values have turned what should be a place to live into a golden asset. Former council properties have been snapped up by private landlords. In the most prosperous areas, up to 70% of former council homes are now privately let. Private rents out of London average over £200 a week while council rents are nearer £90 a week.

Councils in England have been sending up emergency flares for more than a year, trying to alert the government to their inability to build enough new homes to replace the ones they have been forced to sell, with predictable consequences.

In the last five years, since right-to-buy discounts were nearly doubled, 54,581 homes were sold and only 12,472 homes were started. Some are built in one authority from receipts of sales in another, compounding local shortages.

Councils have to use part of the receipts from sales to pay off housing debt, and can only keep a third for replacement. They are still banned from borrowing to make up the full cost of buying or building new ones. Between now and 2020, councils also face having to sell off higher-value council homes in order to fund discounts on housing association homes that are due to come in under right-to-buy provisions.

Like so much else that has happened since 2010, social housing policy has not just been damaging but contradictory, fostering the chimera of a property-owning democracy in an age of shrinking social housing stock and rapidly growing demand. The government makes bold promises on new affordable homes to buy. But what’s needed is homes that people can afford to rent.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/08/the-guardian-view-on-social-housing-time-to-fight-for-affordable-rents

The spirit of Christmas …

For many families, coming together to decorate the Christmas tree is the official start of the festive season, but for a growing number of very wealthy people it is just another task to be outsourced to professional help for as much £80,000.

Calling in a Knightsbridge florist to hang a wreath on your front door and install and decorate a fir tree costs a minimum of £1,500. But the battle among London’s elite to produce the most spectacular Christmas displays has intensified, with professional events companies being called in to create winter wonderland house and garden displays that can come with ice rinks, live reindeer and even actors playing Santa or sugar plum fairies.

“Hiring florists for Christmas has been happening for years,” said Becky Handley, director of the event production company Theme Traders. “But in the last few years people have started calling in event planners to come up with themes and make a real production with professional lighting and cherrypickers to decorate the roof.”

Handley, whose company has had more than 50 people working on Christmas installations since mid-November, said the demands of ultra-rich clients were becoming more extensive every year and coming up with ideas for next year’s displays would start in January at Christmasworld, an international decorating trade fair in Frankfurt.

“People want the whole of the front of houses lit up, and bear in mind these houses are pretty big,” she said. “Those with young children want real snow on 1 December, and we can make it happen.

“People also want immersive experiences. They will ask us to provide carol singers, Santa, sugar plum fairies and real reindeers,” she said. “People have gone a bit bonkers about Christmas.”

She said the cost of a “production Christmas” started at a few thousand pounds but could easily stretch into the tens of thousands. “It’s how long is a piece of string really,” she said. “Last year we did one that cost £80,000 – it really depends on what people want.”

Client confidentially clauses prevent Handley from saying too much about the £80,000 decorations, but she said the job involved dressing the whole house, installing an ice rink in the driveway, and going back several times to change the design “depending on [the client’s] social calendar” ….”

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/08/rich-londoners-christmas-decorators-winter-wonderland-live-reindeer

“Shepton Mallet hospital campaigners: “Reopen this hospital or we’ll see you in court”

Any bets on this hospital re-opening!

“A group of campaigners have launched a legal bid to try and prevent the temporary closure of a community hospital in Somerset.

Shepton Mallet Community Hospital Supporters Group have submitted a pre-action protocol letter to the Somerset Partnership Trust in an effort to reverse the temporary closure of the town’s community hospital.

A pre-action protocol letter is sent from one party to another in a dispute to narrow any issues or to see if litigation can be avoided.

Ten in-patient beds were closed temporarily in October due to staffing issues with the trust saying that they hoped to reopen them in March 2018.

Confirmation of the decision to temporarily close the hospital came after an email to staff was leaked on social media, saying that the plans would “proceed”.

This was despite a previous statement which said that it was “considering its next steps”.

The partnership later insisted that “nothing has changed” and that it remains focused on reopening the hospital towards the end of March 2018.

In a statement, a spokesman for the supporters group said that the letter aimed to challenge the alleged “unlawfulness” of the trusts decision and to “achieve the re-opening of the in-patient beds as quickly as possible.”

Paul Turner said: “We have asked the Trust to rescind its decision before a Court quashes it, and if it wants to take any such decision in the future or any other decision on a change in service at SMCH, the Trust must undertake a prior proper public consultation.

“This is nothing new and the point has been made before in meetings with SOMPAR representatives.”

He added: “We are of course also prepared to take part in alternative dispute resolution to avoid going to court.

“We have asked to be kept up to date concerning developments in this dispute.”

Somerset Partnership Chief Executive, Peter Lewis said: “We have received the letter and we are considering our response.

“In the meantime, I want to reassure the Shepton Mallet community that we remain committed to re-opening the community hospital inpatient ward as soon as we can, although we do not expect this to be before the end of March 2018.”

The issue of the temporary closure was raised at a debate in Westminster Hall last month by the MP for Wells, James Heappey.

Mr Heappey said: “The overall nurse rota statistics for both day and night shifts were 100 per cent in Shepton.”

http://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/shepton-mallet-community-hospital-883030

“Labour demands Commons vote on ‘secret’ plan for NHS”

This is the most dangerous thing to happen to our NHS since the Health and Social Care Act 2012 paved the way for wholesale privatisation. Once this goes through (on the nod as it will with this government) our NHS ceases to exist.

Currently, money in the true NHS stays in it and recirculates. With ACOs first big salaries for ACO staff are creamed off, then boardroom and shareholder dividends of the companies concerned and then the NHS gets cut and rationed – with only high-profit interventions (usually things such as elective surgery which can be costed to the penny) made available.

“Party says ministers are trying to push through changes that could lead to greater privatisation and rationing of care

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

Labour is demanding that MPs be allowed to debate and vote on “secret” plans for the NHS that they claim could lead to greater rationing of care and privatisation of health services.

The party says ministers are trying to push through the creation of “accountable care organisations” (ACOs) without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, has written to Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, urging her not to let “the biggest change to our NHS in a decade” go ahead without MPs’ involvement.

NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, and the government see ACOs as central to far-reaching modernisation plans that they hope will improve patient care, reduce pressure on hospitals and help the NHS stick to its budget.

ACOs involve NHS hospital, mental health, ambulance and community services trusts working much more closely with local councils, using new organisational structures, to improve the health of the population of a wide area. The first ACOs are due to become operational in April in eight areas of England and cover almost 7 million people.

Labour has seized on the fact that the Department of Health plans to amend 10 separate sets of parliamentary regulations that relate to the NHS in order to pave the way legally for the eight ACOs.

In his letter, Ashworth demands that Leadsom grant a debate on the plans before the amended regulations acquire legal force in February.

“Accountable care organisations are potentially the biggest change which will be made to our NHS for a decade. Yet the government have been reluctant to put details of the new arrangements into the public domain. It’s essential that the decision around whether to introduce ACOs into the NHS is taken in public, with a full debate and vote in parliament,” he writes.

A number of “big, unanswered questons” about ACOs remain, despite their imminent arrival in the NHS, he adds. They include how the new organisations will be accountable to the public, what the role of private sector health firms will be and how they will affect NHS staff.

Ashworth also says “the unacceptable secrecy in which these ACOs have been conceived and are being pushed forward is totally contrary to the NHS’s duty to be open, transparent and accountable in its decision-making. The manner in which the government are approaching ACOs, as with sustainability and transformation plans before them, fails that test.”

Stevens’s determination to introduce ACOs has aroused suspicion because they are based on how healthcare is organised in the United States. They came in there in the wake of Obamacare as an attempt to integrate providers of different sorts of healthcare in order to keep patients healthier and avoid them spending time in hospital unnecessarily.

A Commons early day motion (EDM) on ACOs also being tabled by Labour on Thursday, signed by its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and other frontbenchers, notes that “concerns have been raised that ACOs will encourage and facilitate further private sector involvement in the NHS”.

In his letter Ashworth adds: “There is widespread suspicion that the government are forcing these new changes through in order to fit NHS services to the shrinking budgets imposed from Whitehall.” The EDM also notes “concerns that ACOs could be used as a vehicle for greater rationing”.

The King’s Fund, an influential health thinktank, denied that ACOs would open up NHS services to privatisation. “This is not about privatisation; it is about integration,” said Prof Chris Ham, its chief executive.

“There is a groundswell of support among local health and care leaders for the principle of looking beyond individual services and focusing instead on whatever will have the biggest impact in enabling people to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives,” added Ham.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association, backed Labour’s call for greater transparency but said care services should be integrated.

However, he added: “ACOs will not in themselves address the desperate underfunding of the NHS and may divert more money into processes of reorganisation. Current procurement and competition regulations create the potential for ACOs to be opened up to global private providers within a fixed-term contract and with significant implications for patient services and staff.”

The Department of Health refused to say if MPs would be able to debate ACOs. “It is right that local NHS leaders and clinicians have the autonomy to decide the best solutions to improve care for the patients they know best – but significant local changes must always be subject to public consultation and due legal process.

“It is important to note that ACOs have nothing to do with funding – the NHS will always remain free at the point of use,” a spokesman said.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/07/labour-demands-commons-vote-secret-plan-nhs