A timely reminder of the purpose of the Johnson ‘Hospital’

A front page story in today’s Lincs Free press, has resurrected an interesting debate that took place when the new ‘hospital’ was first proposed.
From memory, the hospital trust did try to reduce the public expectation for their brand new facility, by referring to it as ‘a community hospital’. In the same way that a community centre cannot be compared with full blown, seven days a week entertainment venue, our community hospital has very limited functionality, when it comes to offering the full range of services.
As a centre for the various health professionals that operate in and around South Holland, it has created a much improved base. Likewise, the dedicated staff that were running numerous outpatient clinics in the various outdated, cramped and overcrowded buildings dotted around Spalding, now have a much improved and well deserved workplace. As do, of course, their patients.
Nobody can pretend that the minor injuries department is anything but that and those suffering more serious injury than a cut, twist or sprain, still have to accept that a trip to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston is inevitable.
I sympathise with the lady who was left waiting 45 minutes for an ambulance to take her to Boston. However, she appears to have been let down by poor communication and, not for the first time, by the poor management of the hospital trust and the ambulance service, but not by our community hospital, that is doing exactly what it was designed for.

The unacceptable face of localism?

The story from Spain about a British couple dying in a flash flood has a nasty sting in its tail when you look at why it happened. Apparently, the local council ignored instructions from central government to improve the drainage in the area, that would of prevented this event. They were also ‘ordered’ not to allow any further public events in the area until the work was carried out.

Spain has a much greater level of local autonomy it would seem, with central government making lots of noise, but local government ignoring them when they choose. Is this what we can expect as localism takes hold in England?

Tear up all planning policies, then blame councils for the lack!

The government are looking at how to introduce a transition period to give councils time to produce a local plan, but they are resisting any attempt to introduce a reasonable time period for doing so. One excuse given by one of their tame peers, is that councils have had 8 years to produce plans, but the majority still haven’t, so why give them any more time now?

This reasoning, which is actually no reasoning at all, but simply a smoke-screen for wanting to get their own way as soon as possible, ignores the fact that the whole process of plan making is extremely complicated and highly expensive. It also ignores the fact that, until recently, councils could use the default position of using the national policies detailed in planning policy guidance and statements. Unless there was pressing need, such as special local circumstances, why would a council spend large amounts of their taxpayers money producing a local plan?

Successive governments have lulled councils in to what now appears to be a false sense of security, by burying them under multiple layers of planning policy and guidance, for the last 60+ years. Now the current government is throwing all that policy in the bin and then blaming councils for not having any of their own policies. Just to add insult to injury, the government has now produced the sloppily worded NPPF, as a replacement for all that planning policy, with a statement in it designed to ‘punish’ councils that don’t have their own policies; where a plan is silent, indeterminate or out of date, planning permission should be given without delay.

The double whammy of no plan and no time to produce one, is potentially as damaging as the presumption in favour statement that we are all getting so hot and bothered about. I hope as much effort is put into getting a sensible timescale put in place, as has been expended to date, in exposing the NPPF as a flawed document.


Putting compensation culture in perspective

Extraordinary story, with pictures, in today’s newspaper of what happens when a culture of fear of getting sued exists. Apparently, a little girl in China was hit by a van that drove away leaving her lying injured in the street. Nothing too surprising there these days, it sadly happens all too often. The shocker here, is the fact that no fewer than 18 different people, some walking, some cycling, saw and then ignored the bleeding child to the extent that she was then run over and injured further by a lorry.

Is it possible that fear of being sued for helping somebody and making some sort of mistake whilst doing so, frightened off every one of these 18 people? Or is it a sign of a far more worrying character trait in this group of people, or maybe that region of China, that means they value another human being’s life so little? especially the life of a female child.

Local involvement in the NPPF

This afternoons #NPPF DCLG Select Committee – Practitioner agrees to need for transition
by andrew lainton October 17, 2011

In the second session Cllr Gary Porter – one of the practitioners group 4 – was entertaining. Not the sort of cllr you would want to cross at 11.00pm at the end of an exhausting meeting. He sees everything in very black and white terms and gets angry at other views.

He conceded the need for a transition – not just for putting plans in place but for updating plans to include things like parking standards. He also criticised the 20% rule saying the figure should be set locally.

The committee was rather slack jawed at his bizarre suggestion that local authorities should be able to choose from several competing sets of guidance on matters such as how to set housing targets – how could any plan be found sound by an inspector – or not have the decision challenged in the courts – in that set up.

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Eric Pickles won’t be issuing any press release on this!

Media outrage about public sector manager salary increases is “unfounded” according to private sector research published this week.

Income figures from Hay Group’s salary database shows senior public sector employees have not received disproportionate pay rises over the last decade and continue to earn 33% less than private sector colleagues.

The data also shows front-line public servants are now better off than employees in the private sector although the management consultant’s pay experts have predicted this will be reversed as the government’s austerity drive takes effect.

However, Hay Group’s reward information consultant David Smith, said: “Our data shows that the media furore over public pay is unfounded, with percentage rises at senior management level largely identical to those in the private sector.

“Public sector managers should arm themselves with reliable and robust figures, particularly around the value of the total package, to help support their decisions about pay in the public domain.”

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has been a particularly vocal critic of “exorbitant” pay deals for town hall chief executives. Last year, he told the Daily Telegraph: “There is widespread public concern about soaring salaries in local government, with chief executives moving from council to council like football managers.”

Hay Group data for senior managers in the private and public sectors shows senior pay in both the private and public sectors has risen in line with each other between 2000 and 2011.

While private sector senior salaries rose by 62% to a current average of £176,498, public sector salaries rose by 61% to the current average of £118,673.

LGC’s Salary Tracker research, published in July, showed the average salary of chief executives appointed in the previous 12 months was 18% lower than their predecessors’ salary.

Hay group’s data shows a different trend for front-line and support staff in the public sector who now earn more than their private sector colleagues after average public sector salaries rose by 13% more than private sector wages

In 2000 average public sector salaries were £12,035 compared to the marginally higher £12,652 private sector average.

After more than a decade of Labour government public sector spending policies and following a drop in private sector wages since the recession hit in 2009, that position has switched with the average public sector salary of £18,027 compared to £17,332 in the private sector.

However, Hay Group predicted private sector salaries would soon be outstripping public sector salaries at all levels.

Mr Smith said: “The public sector was not directly affected by the global economic downturn, unlike the private sector. But with government austerity taking hold, many employees are beginning to feel the impact of cost cutting in their wallets.

“With pay restraint taking hold in the public sector and pensions set to become a less valuable benefit, we predict that the salary gap will start to widen at all levels in the next couple of years.

“In these tough times, the challenge for the public sector will be to contain costs yet still be able to attract and retain key talent.”

Regional government mark II

An interesting item in today’s press about more squandering and waste of EU funds. Most of the blame seems to fall on the regional government offices put in place by the last Labour government, with their inadequate accounting and poor auditing practices.

I’m told that one of the justifications for the introduction of regional government was the need to have a mechanism by which European money could be channelled to specific areas of the country, rather than to central government for redistribution. This is now the same rationale being applied to the introduction, by Eric Pickles ( the man who killed off regional government) of localities directors and localities partners. However, this time, instead of 8 government offices, in a ridiculous piece of government double speak and seemingly in order to avoid using the Labour government’s EU inspired terminology, we are now to have 14 ‘localities’.

Quite apart from the ludicrous situation of having to set up a completely superfluous level of bureaucracy, in order to get back a fraction of the cash we give EU, we now seem destined to see regional government mark II.

How many of those working for these localities directors, as they inevitably build their individual local empires, will be ex-regional government employees? Many of whom will have, by right, recently collected redundancy and severance payments, compliments of the British taxpayer. Having had a nice little break, they can now rejoin the public payroll, compliments of the rash and ill considered decisions of the same man who is now introducing these localities directors – a rose by any other name.

A timely warning to all of us

Here’s an interesting piece (for those of us interested in planning issues that is) from a planning website where local government planners pose questions to colleagues. It should serve as a timely warning to any council concerned about how to deal with neighbourhood plans. For those who don’t wish to read the whole thing, it’s all about neighbourhood plans being used by some parties as a way of promoting their own vested interests.

Having found no interest in these at all, suddenly here in (location deleted for obvious reasons) we’ve got 3 suggestions coming forward and need to act fast if we are to bid for CLG grant – assuming they could be runners.
What worries us is that they all propose housing developments that run counter to our recently adopted LDF (Core Strategy, Development Policies and Allocations DPDs) and therefore could fail at the first hurdle of not being in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan.
Being a large rural area we have a sustainable settlement hierarchy in our core strategy to promote development in the towns and larger villages with a good range of services, etc and we severely restrict new housing development elsewhere, including small villages. We now have a small village of 20 houses with a supportive parish council (covering a wider area) wanting to promote 2 dwellings for the families of well respected local business people, whose planning applications have previously been refused.
So only 2 dwellings – hardly a general conformity issue you might think? but it could be repeated and it undemines our strategy of delivering sustainable development, yet is probably in line with national policy.
What do you think? Anybody else proceeding with a neighbourhood plan for 2 dwellings? The other 2 proposed neighbourhood plans relate to secondary service villages with no housing allocations and tightly defined development limits and developers wanting to promote relatively large sites.
One sites was even rejected for allocation by the LDF Inspector last year. It’s not certain they would get 50% community support, but with a referendum not until the end of the process it’s an unknown and potentially a waste of money.
In one village several members of the parish council have direct interests in the site promoted, so presumably couldn’t vote. Is anybody else struggling over how to proceed with neighbourhood plans that don’t comply with the LDF and have PC members with vested interests?

Swan Street closure proposal

I recently wrote to LCC (link below) suggesting that they might like to extend the closure of Swan  Street in Spalding for a trial period, in order to gauge the long term effect.  The idea would be to prove, if proof were needed, that any such closure would be to the benefit of the town, by helping traffic to flow better and by reducing the tailbacks that clog up Winsover Road on a regular basis.

Swan St close

I have seen one letter in the press from a Spalding resident and would like to suggest that it would do no harm if a few more were to make their views known on the subject.


Steppingstone Bridge Spalding flooding

A bit more information for residents regarding the flooding problem the bridge suffers during periods of heavy rain.  Below is a link to a letter received from LCC.  As you will see from reading this, the issue of who does what on the bridge is far from straightforward.  I will do my best to make progress on this before the freezing weather arrives again this year.

Bridge flooding