Hinterland - Friday, 18 May, 2018

In this week's Hinterland, we look at adult social care, Carillion and Virgin, the Rural Payments Agency and the shrinking world of Local Government.
We also have a positive "and finally" all about Riverford. Now, please do read on...

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Social care funding plans branded costly and unfair

The debate previewed here is absolutely central to the future of Local Government. This story tells us:

The government’s plans for reforming social care in England – at the heart of a planned green paper – have been criticised as costly and unfair in a report on the future of funding care for older people. The report from two highly respected thinktanks, the Kings Fund and the Health Foundation, finds that the idea of increasing the number of people paying for care, and how much they pay, put forward in the Tory manifesto last year, would be almost as costly as making all care free.

The much-anticipated green paper on social care for older people is set to be published by summer 2018 – although, having been promised before last year’s general election, there were hopes the paper would appear much sooner.

It was also hoped the paper would address needs across the entire adult social care sector. Instead, the paper will be limited to the government’s plans for improving care and support for older people and tackling the challenges presented by an ageing population.

There will be a ‘parallel work stream on working age disabled adults’, but some are concerned this report will focus on getting more disabled people into work.

Ministry’s workforce grows while local government shrinks

Twas ever thus…..

Staffing levels at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have increased 18% in the past two years, while the number of people working in local government has decreased nationally by 9% over a similar period, LGC analysis of government data reveals.

Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) called the divergence “worse than double standards” as “rolling back the state obviously doesn’t mean that” for those working in Whitehall. He also questioned the value of central government’s civil servants.

“From the taxpayers’ point of view, local government staff add value to the lives of the people we work for. I would be interested to see if someone would like to say the same thing about central government staff,” said Lord Porter.

Although total staffing levels and payroll statistics at the ministry has generally trended downwards by 12% since 2012, it has witnessed a snapback in staffing levels over the last year in particular. The ministry’s latest figures, published on 27 April, show that in total 1,724 workers were working for the department in March 2018 compared with 1,462 in April 2016. This headcount only started to rise in July 2017, however

MPs: Carillion collapse almost inevitable

The first of two stories picking over the corpses of failed big public service contract businesses – the next one follows this article directly. It seems to me that we are reaching the nadir of this sort of way of doing things in the public sector…

The collapse of Carillion at the start of this year was “almost inevitable” given the model of outsourced service delivery pursued by successive governments, MPs said today.

Issuing the final report of the joint inquiry into Carillion, the business and work and pensions committees were highly critical of government business policy, the company’s directors, regulators and the accountancy and audit professions.

Work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said Carillion’s collapse was “a disgraceful example of how much of our capitalism is allowed to operate, waved through by a cosy club of auditors, conflicted at every turn”.

He added: “Government urgently needs to come to Parliament with radical reforms to our creaking system of corporate accountability.”

The government was also urged to immediately review the Crown Representative system. Crown Representatives provide an interface and single point of focus between the government and key suppliers but the report slammed them as “semi-professional and part-time”, and failing to provide sufficient warning of risks in a key strategic supplier.

But the report’s harshest words were reserved for the directors of Carillion who were labelled as greedy and complacent. Executive bonuses were paid out every year, even as the company began to unravel.

East Coast train line to be put into public control

I wonder if this debacle will tarnish the Virgin Brand? Irrespective of the operator I alway find the staff on this service good and the service itself relatively punctual. Perhaps we should put more store in the people less in the brand when we think about and procure services!!!

Rail services on the East Coast Main Line are being brought back under government control, following the failure of the current franchise.

Operators Stagecoach and Virgin Trains will hand over control from 24 June.

The Department for Transport will run the service until a new public-private partnership can be appointed in 2020.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it would smooth the transition to a new operator, but critics said it was evidence of private sector failure.

Mr Grayling said the franchise had failed because Stagecoach and Virgin Trains had “got their bid wrong”, overestimating the profitability of the line.

It is the third time in a just over a decade that the government has called a halt to the East Coast franchise.

The London to Edinburgh line has been run by a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin, since 2015.

The companies promised to pay £3.3bn to run the franchise until 2023, but at the end of last year it become clear they were running into trouble.

In February it was announced that the franchise would end early, leading to accusations the government was bailing them out.

MPs slam RPA for failing farmers… again

The RPA has taken a battering this week! This story tells us:

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is “failing on multiple levels”, which is causing significant harm to farmers and raises questions about its ability to deliver in a post-Brexit era, according to MPs.

The warning is contained in a report on the performance of the RPA, published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) select committee, which concludes the agency is failing in its core duties.

It is the latest in a long line of official reports published over the past decade which have attacked the RPA over problems in getting support payments out to farmers (see ‘A history of RPA failure’, below).

The report says it is “unacceptable” that more than 3,000 farmers had not been paid under the Basic Payment Scheme by March 2018, as farmers should be able to rely on getting their payments on time.

“Communications with farmers and the complaints handling system remain poor,” said MPs.

“There are also widespread concerns over errors from recent mapping updates and inaccurate payments. This is simply not good enough.”

The committee says it has concerns about the agency’s ability to handle the extra burden of delivering the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes, responsibility for which is being transferred across from Natural England.

Neil Parish, chairman of the committee, says the group is also not confident the RPA has the capacity or expertise to deliver a seamless Brexit transition.

“Substantial improvements across the organisation are needed to address this.”

Committee members recommended that the RPA should stretch itself by setting a target of paying 98% of BPS claims by the end of March each year – rather than its 2017 target of paying 90% of customers by the end of December.

They point out farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to spend time and effort correcting mapping errors which are not their fault.

Instead of making farmers submit a paper-based RLE1 form to rectify these, the RPA should develop a system that allows farmers to make direct changes to the online mapping register.

Riverford is becoming employee owned on 8th June 2018. Here are the key facts…

Im not surprised for one minute that the owner of this brilliant company is doing this – more power to his elbow. This story, brought to my attention by Rob Poole, real food aficionado tells us:

74% of Riverford will move into an Employee Trust, benefiting all employees equally

Founder-owner Guy Singh-Watson will retain 26% and a very active role

After research and reflection over more than a decade, Guy has chosen employee ownership to protect Riverford’s values, ensure its independence, and because he believes the employees are the best people for the job

The rejection of outside investors and choice of EO to secure its succession continues Riverford’s challenging stance on business norms. EO is a gathering movement, seeing growth of around 60% since 2010. Done well, it has demonstrable benefits for staff and business, including higher productivity, higher morale, and less debt


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