Strange goings-on at Housing Association Curo’s new social housing in Old Market. A few lucky new residents were all set to move in October when suddenly the whole thing was called off.
The properties were meant to be connected to the new Old Market Heat Network, currently owned and run by Bristol City Council but being secretively handed over to Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall, at a knockdown price.
Residents now have been told they can’t move in to their new homes until January at the earliest because of “a disagreement about the heating with the council”.
Let’s hope the disagreement is nothing serious and that our city’s public assets are still on the way to a global corporation to make a fat profit from.
Has the council just given up paying for some SEND provision they’re legally obliged to provide?
A lot of children require so-called ‘Alternative Provision’ (AP) in Bristol because they are unable to attend school. This may be because the council is unable to provide a school appropriate for the child.
Or it may be because the child has been thrown out of school because their parents have attempted to assert their child’s legal right to SEND provision that the school has taken funding for and then not provided.
Many of these children are taught by private tutors paid by the council. However, The Bristolian is receiving news that “one-by-one families with kids in AP or EOTAS (Education Otherwise Than At School) are having provision stopped because the council has stopped paying the bills for it.”
So far the council has provided no notice to parents and no reason why they’ve stopped paying for this provision. Our information comes from SEND parents who would probably be viewed by the council as “troublemakers” but we’re assured the problem is now “widespread”.
What’s on earth is going on? Why is our council randomly cancelling SEND children’s education?
At the scrutiny meeting where councillors discussed SEND spying, senior council boss, Vikki “Mata Hari” Jervis also tried to convince councillors that refusing to sign-off funding for the Bristol Parent Carer Forum, who council bosses hate for supporting parents and encouraging some to take legal action against the council was fine.
Instead, explained Jervis, the money and work could be split among the 22 groups that make up a new so-called “Community of Groups” selected by the council to best represent the interests of SEND parents by never mentioning legal action.
Jervis’s claim is not true. Contact, who actually administer this grant Jervis is trying to award, say on their website, “Contact administers, and pays a grant of up to £17,500 available to ONE parent carer forum in each local authority area of England, funded by the Department for Education (DfE).”
Is anything council management say about SEND true?
Since July last year an NHS Integrated Care Board has been established across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester but not BANES. Because why use the existing West of England administrative area when you can make up another new area instead?
This latest NHS reform, according to their PR, will “bring the NHS together locally to improve population health and establish shared strategic priorities within the NHS”.
Six people, with no explanation of how or why they were appointed or what they’re being paid by us, are serving as non-executive directors on this board to “act in the best interests of patients and the public”.
Those secretly selected to act in our best interests include a Merchant Venturer, UWE boss and overpromoted chiropodist Steve West; Business West bigwig Jaya “Cha-cha-cha” Chakrabarti and a random woman from Wales, Ellen Donovan, who explains she has a “good track record as a Senior Executive in product development”. Neglecting to explain that a lot of that experience was at Debenhams, which went into, er, liquidation for the second and last time in 2020.
Little surprise, then, that this board stuffed with private sector cheerleaders has selected a private sector solution funded by international venture capital for their first initiative to support our local NHS.
Welcome to ‘NHS@Home’, a so-say ‘hospital at home’ scheme where the elderly are discharged from hospital to free up bed space and left to fend for themselves with the aid of a magic box of tech courtesy of leading ‘virtual ward providers’, private firm Doccla.
Far from working in the best interests of patients and the public, however, Doccla are working for profit and to pay back the large capital investment they’ve received from venture capital and private equity firms. What could possibly go wrong?
Conveniently, our Integrated Care Board has deemed trials of their tech solution a success and are now throwing millions at it across the region they’ve invented.
Shame, then, that word on the ground from NHS workers implementing the tech is that it was far from a success. They say that the elderly, unsurprisingly, struggled to understand how to work the Doccla box of tricks and require a huge level of in-person support that simply isn’t there.
In the brave new world of private equity involvement in the NHS, do we just have to cross our fingers and hope no one dies as public money turns to private profit?
Our old friends at Private Eye have picked up on the SEND spying scandal.
They picked up on the farcical ‘fact finding’ report produced by the council’s none-too-bright Deputy Head of Legal Nancy “Rollercoaster” Rollason which claims she found “no evidence” of “systematic monitoring”.
A strange conclusion when emails in the public domain between SEND managers openly state that they’re “working hard to uncover concrete evidence”!
Perhaps they worked hard uncovering unsystematically?
An eagle-eared reader has been watching and listening to the feed of the People Scrutiny Meeting in September, which questioned council lawyer Nancy Rollercoaster and SEND bosses about their ridiculous self-serving ‘fact finding’ report on their spying. A report that conveniently concludes no council boss has done anything wrong.
At one point SEND honcho and Head of Education Psychology, Vikki “Mata Hari” Jervis assures councillors, “there is no guidance from Contact [a SEND charity and advocacy organisation] on campaigning”.
Then later in the meeting Marta Hari helpfully tells councillors, “yes all our officers have read that guidance from Contact on campaigning”.
A random and incomplete selection of documents obtained under FoI shed light on what might be the point of the SEND spying affair.
Many of the documents released reveal that Education Director, Alison “Pervy” Hurley and her SEND managers were taking a lot of interest in FoI requests made by parents and in posts on social media between parents regarding legal action or judicial review.
For starters, council officers should not be interfering in the public’s use of FoI. This is laid out in FoI legislation as unlawful. Hurley and her spy team have therefore broken the law by obtaining evidence of FoI requests by parents and using them to discourage parents who were members of the Bristol Parent Carer Forum from making further requests.
On the question of legal action and judicial review, are People Director, Hugh “Cares” Evans and his Education Director Hurley running an informal demand management policy in SEND?
This is a money-saving policy used by public service managers to prevent take-up of services, often through obstruction. Council tactics may include slow and confusing processes, ignoring correspondence and communications, forcing people into long complaints processes and simply refusing people services they are entitled to.
The last thing Evans and Hurley need is parents taking legal action to obtain the services they are entitled to as this creates a double cost to the council. The cost of providing the service they’ve tried to avoid delivering and also the cost of any legal action.
Who agreed to pay our council bosses large sums to block people from asserting their legal rights to services?