My message of support to the legal team who are fighting the dismantling of the NHS in a crucial case in Leeds Crown Court tomorrow #Justice4NHS

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Tomorrow, the crowdfunded legal case brought by 999 Call for the NHS to stop US-style ‘Accountable Care Organisation’ (ACO) contracts being introduced into the NHS will be heard in Leeds Crown Court. Supporters from all over the country are gathering in Leeds and I’ve sent them this message:
‘On behalf of the councillors and activists who are campaigning against the Integrated Care System in Devon, I send best wishes to our legal team and everyone who is campaigning to keep a universal, comprehensive and fully public National Health Service.
‘Following our opposition, the Devon STP has given up the idea of Accountable Care Organisations for the time being. We believe that this legal case has already played a key role in slowing down the moves by the Conservative Government and NHS England to place our health service in the ACO straightjacket. We now look forward to a legal victory which will turn the tide against the dismantling and privatisation of the NHS.’ 

New local, chemical-free food cooperative coming to East Devon soon – launches online survey of local residents’ opinions, please complete

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In My Back Yard is a new East Devon food cooperative, a group of local, chemical-free food producers based in Branscombe. They say:
‘We’re aiming to provide a service offering the local area more choice, more convenience and more reliability, so you can enjoy delicious produce from East Devon and neighbouring counties, with regular availability every week. How the co-operative grows can be helped by you and your feedback here today. More information will be available as we continue to bring together resources and services. We appreciate your opinion as local residents, so we’d be very grateful if you’d complete this quick survey.’   

I’d like to urge every reader of Seaton and Colyton Matters to complete the survey – thank you! If you know someone who isn’t online who’d like to print off and post the survey back, here is a printable form: In My Back Yard – market research survey April.

Is this what they call a consultation? ‘Your feedback: Please provide more stops at Clapham Junction not less. South Western Railway response: we will continue with our original plans to reduce services in the peak and shoulder peak periods.’

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But they have made a small concession: ‘We are amending the plans to ensure both Clapham Junction and Woking calls are maintained in off-peak West of England services.’ West of England line.

Ever wondered why Highways fill potholes in poor weather conditions, and then the job has to be done again? It’s down to the ‘liability to repair’, a madness of the outsourcing system.

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The most common complaint in parish councils the last few weeks has been that pothole repairs by Skanska, Devon’s Highways contractor, are too often failing, leading to the same hole being filled two or even three times in a short period. (While of course, holes which are not classed as ‘safety defects’ are left unfilled, as per the contract the Council has given them.)

When I asked about this,  I was told that while Skanska’s work is mostly of a good standard, they are filling too many holes when roads are pouring with water or frozen. And the explanation for this – they have a contractual ‘liability to repair’ within certain deadlines (often ‘next day’). It seems to be another madness of the outsourcing system – if Devon didn’t need to specify the contractor’s liabilities so tightly, a more sensible approach to repairs could be adopted. Bring it all back in-house?

The high price of outsourcing: effects of Devon Highways contract changeover still being felt one year on

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A full year after Skanska replaced South West Highways as the maintenance contractor for Devon Highways, the effects of the changeover are still being felt. Draining cleaning equipment ordered by the new contractor is still arriving, 12 months after they took over.

7975873195_5fc2c2f845_k-768x576It is clear that all involved greatly underestimated the transition costs. A ‘demobilising’ effect in the last 6 months of the old contract was followed by low operational efficiency in the first couple of months of the new one, and Skanska have spent the last year learning how to do the job. (SWH, which originally took over Devon’s own direct labour department, had been doing it for 20 years).

The difficulties of transferring 250 staff to the new contractor and of managing the software transition were also underestimated. It all makes me wonder if provider changeovers – even when they’re planned and orderly and there isn’t a Carillion-style failure – aren’t a major downside of outsourcing Council services.

While we’re thinking about this, do remember that planning for Devon’s NHS Integrated Care System (formerly known as the Accountable Care System) has included provision for the effects of ‘provider failure’. Is this acceptable? Delays in filling potholes are one thing – delays in the NHS caused by costly handovers between providers could be quite another, even if planned.

I will be a member of a task group on Highways set up yesterday by Devon County Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee.