Monthly Archives: January 2021

Coronavirus Infections Reduced In West Lancashire, While A Local Student Drugs Party Took Place

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport NHS Trust hospitals have reported 35 coronavirus infections today, bringing the cumulative total to 7,754. The infection rate is now 6,783.5 per 100,000 of our population.

Local Infections reported included Rufford & Banks – 47 cases, Bickerstaffe & Newburgh – 32 cases, Skelmersdale – 31 cases, Burscough – 43 cases, Scarisbrick, Halsall & Haskayne – 30 cases, and Ormskirk North & West – 34 cases.

There is no news of local deaths from coronavirus released today.

Police Officers attended an address in Wigan Road Ormskirk overnight where a gathering of more than 20 people was taking place. A student is facing a £10,000 fine for organising and hosting a party in the middle of lockdown. Rural West Lancashire Police said the “appalling” party was attended with people from various parts of the northwest. Up to 20 people were in attendance, and quantities of cannabis and boxes of nitrous oxide were seized at the scene. As well as drugs seized and lockdown rules flouted, the force said some officers were assaulted at the party.

Sergeant Scott of Lancashire Police said “Their behaviour is unacceptable. A male from the Manchester area was arrested for assaulting an emergency worker and contravening the regulations. The student who organised and held this event has been issued with a fixed penalty notice and now faces the prospect of a £10,000 fine. I am appalled by this behaviour and hope this stands as a deterrent to those who wish to organise future events like this during this pandemic”.

Sunday Satire. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly View Of Developments

Planning reforms mean beauty will be in the eye of the council. The word “beauty” will be included in planning rules for the first time in a drive to eliminate “identikit” housing estates.

Local communities will be given the power to set design standards for all new developments under plans to improve the look and quality of housing. Developers will have to make sure that all new properties adhere to the character of the areas where they are being built, under proposals being announced by Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary.

Any planning proposal that does not meet the new criteria will be automatically rejected by local councils as part of efforts to eliminate “identikit” housing estates.

Symbolically, the word “beauty” is to be included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947. The measures come in response to the Building Beautiful Commission that reported last year. It called for local people to be given much more say in setting standards for new homes in their areas and emphasising the importance of ensuring that new developments had adequate green space.

The proposals are also designed to offset criticism of the government’s wider proposals for planning reform. A white paper published last year proposed designating areas across the country where planning permission would be automatically granted to meet housing targets. As part of the plan, local planning committees would lose the power to reject developments in zones set out for housing as long as they met set criteria.

The move, however, is facing strong opposition from Tory MPs after it emerged that the algorithm for deciding where homes should be built was skewed towards shire councils in the southeast, while recommending lower numbers in northern cities.

In the hope of seeing off some criticism, the government is publishing a draft national design code that provides a checklist of design principles that councils should consider for new developments. These will include such things as street character, building type, façade and requirements that address wellbeing and environmental impact.

Each local council will then be expected to draw up their own individual design codes in consultation with local residents. They will be supported by a new national Office for Place that will advise councils developing their plans.

Nicholas Boys Smith, who will lead the new body, said the plan was to make it easier to refuse ugly new developments. “There is no fundamental reason that prevents the creation of streets and squares, homes as places where we can lead happy, healthy, and connected lives,” he said. “As a society we have not done this, and we are paying the consequences. Our ultimate purpose will be to make it easier for neighbourhood communities to ask for what they find beautiful and to refuse what they find ugly”.

Jenrick said too much recent development had been inappropriate. “We should aspire to pass on our heritage and our unique built environment, not depleted but enhanced. To do that, we need to bring about a lasting change in the buildings and places we build.

“In recent decades some development has acquired a bad name due to shoddy workmanship, at times outright unsafe, and the development of ‘anywhere’ places, which have little relevance or connection to local character.

“Local people [should] set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity. Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods”.

Can you imagine the squirming taking place among our identikit planning officer classes as they receive this edict? Can you see them adapting to proposals from local people? Local character, they will ask, what’s that? Simple, ask the people who pay you!

Latest Coronavirus News For West Lancashire

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport NHS Trust hospitals have reported 39 new coronavirus infections today. The cumulative total is 7,719 that’s 6,752.9 infections per 100,000 of our community.

NHS England over-reported deaths in West Lancashire yesterday and the total losses are now reported to be 336. They state “There were 3 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 30 January 2021. Between 24 January 2021 and 30 January 2021, there have been 8 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows an increase of 14.3% compared to the previous 7 days.

Trust Accused Of Emotional Blackmail

After asking junior doctors to work unpaid in covid-hit units. London’s largest acute trust has been accused of ‘emotional blackmail’ by suggesting junior doctors could do voluntary shifts in its ‘really short staffed’ critical care unit.

In an email cascaded to all junior doctors at Whipps Cross Hospital, run by Barts Health Trust, hospital medical director Heather Noble said day and night shifts at another trust site, the Royal London Hospital, “really need cover”.

She said doctors could work overtime through a “voluntary or paid shift”, and that if they made contact, should “state whether or not they want to be paid”. Doctors working at the trust who received the email, who wished to remain anonymous, described the email as “tone deaf” and “not the right way to incentivise anyone to do what they want”.

One medic said “There has been a lot of anger generated by this correspondence amongst junior doctors. People already working antisocial and demanding rotas are very unhappy about being asked to work more hours for free”.

HSJ understands reaction to the email resulted in a change in hospital messaging. Emma Cox, chair of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association’s junior doctors committee, said “Junior doctors have faced unique disruption during this pandemic, affecting training and rotation, and often still find themselves having to fight exhausting battles to be properly paid for the work they are doing.

“It is clear trusts are under intense pressure from the top not to spend, but requiring people to opt in to receive payment for gruelling extra shifts is a clear case of emotional blackmail. This is the kind of antagonising approach which HCSA fears will fuel the departure of a generation of young doctors once the pandemic is over.”

A spokesman for Barts Health Trust said “We are facing significant pressure from high covid-19 infection rates and non-covid winter demands, so we have asked staff to take on additional shifts. Staff in all services are going the extra mile to provide the best possible care to our patients.

 “We are offering extra benefits to staff who give up their time to take on additional shifts to care for our patients. Staff working outside their contracted hours will be paid bank rates or given time in lieu, and those redeployed within their contracted hours will be paid their regular salary in line with their contracted arrangements”.

Comments?

“Maybe they should ask Deloitte or Serco staff if they fancy a bit of ‘Pro Bono’ chip in a bit to save the country from rack and ruin…I’m beginning to understand why my kids gave up Acute Dr’ing and went off to do research?”

And “Agree that this all rankles when you consider that some del boy can get 100s of millions to procure PPE from his shed, millions to run a ferry company without ships, or hold down a cabinet job whilst presiding over one car crash after another (too many candidates to bother singling one person out)”.

Meanwhile “Yesterday was an utterly disastrous day for the EU. They invoked Article 16, which placed a hard border to NI. They completely abandoned the UK during a global pandemic & violated legal contracts. This should never, ever be forgiven. Shame on them”.

And “To be clear, the EU does not regret their actions. They just regret getting caught. Brexiteers have been pointing out the EU routinely breaks the law when it suits them. We were chastised for this. Yesterday, it became clear for the world to see, in its darkest hour”.

Huge Rise In West Lancashire Coronavirus Losses

Early reports today suggest our local hospitals, at the Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust, have recorded eight deaths, including seven on January 27th and one on January 28th. All deaths occurred at Southport.

If confirmed the total borough losses are now, sadly, 338 valued members of our community.

The latest infections report shows an increase of 52, the cumulative total is now 7.680, and the rate is 6,718.8 per 100,000 of our population.

The County Council That Cocks-up For West Lancashire

On 8th December 2020 West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper told us she “Is progressing the campaign for Skelmersdale Train Station having met with Network Rail last week. It has been 12 months since Boris Johnson announced that Skelmersdale railway station will be built”.

So Rosie had since written to the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary seeking reassurance that the project is still on track. Responding, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris “yesterday confirmed to Rosie that Department for Transport officials met with Lancashire County Council counterparts to discuss the work the council commissioned to assess the scheme”.

Minister Heaton-Harris further stated “LCC expect to conclude the SOBC (Strategic Outline Business Case) in the first quarter of 2021 and we look forward to discussing it with them in the anticipation that they will wish to seek Government funding”.

Rosie then commented “I have taken every opportunity to lobby Ministers, ask questions in Parliament and make the case for a railway station in Skelmersdale. Many Skelmersdale residents feel isolated and forgotten and think the railway station would never be built. A railway station in the heart of Skelmersdale will open up a world of economic and social opportunities for the town and its residents.

“I also met with officials from Network Rail on Friday who briefed me about the progress being made on the Strategic Outline Business Case working with Lancashire County Council and engineers Mott MacDonald.

“It was good news to hear that investigations have shown that rail is the right solution for transport in and out of Skelmersdale and ruling out other options such as light rail or a parkway some miles from the town. Receiving confirmation from the Transport Minister, who I will be meeting with tomorrow (Wednesday), that his department’s officials are in discussions with LCC show just how high up the agenda this is for all the partners involved.

“I have also written to the Lancashire County Council Chief Executive seeking a formal update on progress, as the business case is due for completion early in the New Year.

“It is inconceivable that in the 21st Century, a town with a population of 38,000, is served only by infrequent buses and where residents who don’t own cars can’t easily go about their daily lives, work, shop or enjoy visits to theatres and cinemas in nearby towns such as Liverpool and Manchester. This railway station will mean that West Lancashire constituents will no longer be isolated from 21st Century Britain”.

So what happened to the formal update on progress on the business case from the LCC Chief Executive? Nothing, apparently. No update on Rosie’s website, we steadily advance into 2021, and is it another kick in the teeth for the town with a virtually isolated population of 38,000? From the county that demeans the West Lancashire residents who are regularly flooded in their homes?  

And “Skelmersdale West County Councillor Julie Gibson has reacted with dismay that she is not allowed to address the Development Control Committee (taking place virtually) on a planning application for Whitemoss Landfill site” so what price local democracy and representation?

Is it any wonder it is known as “the county council that cocks-up for West Lancashire”?

Covid Contracts Are FoI Subjects

Extend FoI Act To Cover Private Companies Making Millions Says Information Commissioner

Private companies taking millions of pounds of Government cash during the pandemic should be subjected to freedom of information laws, a top civil servant has said. Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham 

renewed her calls for private companies working on behalf of the public to be subjected to the Freedom of Information Act.

She also suggested that private companies could bear the burden of the cost of extending the act to them. It comes after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated Government outsourcing, with billions of pounds worth of contracts handed to private companies. The contracts have sparked allegations of cronyism after ministers were accused of creating a “fast-track VIP lane” for PPE deals.

Ms Denham told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sub-committee on online harms and disinformation “I think what’s needed to make the [FoI] act work in a way that’s fair to the public is that the act needs to reflect how public services are delivered.   The pandemic has only accelerated the range of actors involved in the delivery of public service so I think the same accountability should apply for the private sector that are delivering fundamental public services”.

Asked if the rights of information should be extended to all organisations that deliver Government services, she replied “I do”. And asked who should pay for the associated costs, she replied “Obviously private sector companies that are delivering services under massive contracts should bear the burden of those costs.  How this would work in practice, extending the reach of the act to cover private sector delivery you could actually come up with a threshold of the value of the contract before that organisation is subject to transparency requirements”.

Ms Denham added “Fundamentally what’s important is that citizens have a right to hold organisations to account, understand how decisions are made.  If you take a housing association that falls outside the act then an individual doesn’t have the right to access information about the safety of their housing.  I don’t think that’s fair”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent regulatory body sponsored by the Government to uphold information rights in the public interest. Last year the National Audit Office found that companies recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were given priority as the government raced to obtain Personal Protective Equipment.

They said over half of the £18 billion spent on pandemic-related contracts was awarded without competitive tender. It emerged that a number of multi-million pound contracts were awarded to companies and businessmen with little or no experience of supplying PPE.

The Government was under huge pressure to get more PPE at the start of the pandemic so many contracts had to be awarded without the usual competitive tendering process. MPs have been calling for an overhaul of the way government contracts are being handled.