Tower Hamlets Watch

The slow lingering death of Tower Hamlets PCT?

August 12, 2010
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Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust (PCT) has removed all support for Locum Doctors within its GP Surgeries. This is now being felt on the ground by busy GP Surgeries who complain at the lack of support by the PCT. Previously to this new agenda, the Tower Hamlets PCT provided replacment (Locum) doctors at those surgeries that needed the service. This meant that if a doctor themselves went ill, or on holiday or was missing from their post for whatever reason then the surgery could ring the service that deals with supplying Locum GP’s and send one out. This service has now been withdrawn. GP surgeries can no longer rely on this service, and most I’ve spoken too are now at a loss as too how they can provide the same level of service.

Yesterday in one GP surgery I rang, they were missing 3 doctors due to annual leave, which was now providing an extremely reduced service. Both admin staff and medical personell alike were feeling the increased strain. Without the re-provision of these missing doctors, the surgeries feel as if they are at breaking point. One doctor i spoke to over the weekend stated;

“It looks as if they will be eventually privatising the service”

I was always under the impression that provision for Locum services was already privatised and that there had already been concerns across the board for such services being privatised. Concerns such as agencies colluding to increase the prices for NHS services reflected this.

Talking to sources within the PCT and also the PALS service, they also expressed concerns about the future of the PCT’s themselves. As part of the spending cuts that have been placed on us by our governments, bailing out the bankers has led to cuts accross the board within the PCT.

As early as last June, chairman of the British Medical Association promised that;

“We are not going to allow doctors to be the scapegoats for the failures of the politicians or the bankers”
Dr Hamish Meldrum
British Medical Association

But as part of the new NHS whitepaper Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS, it looks as if we may be witnessing the a full frontal assualt on our PCT;

The key highlights of the document, entitled Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, are listed below:

* The government will devolve power and responsibility for commissioning services to GPs and practice teams working in consortia.
* Every GP will be a member of a ‘shadow’ consortium by 2011/12.
* Consortia will start taking on duties from 2012/13 and full financial responsibility from April 2013.
* Management allowances will be available to help fund commissioning.
* An independent and accountable NHS commissioning board will allocate and account for NHS resources.
* NHS commissioning board will calculate practice-level budgets and allocate these directly to consortia and will hold practices to account.
* GP consortia will include an accountable officer.
* Each consortium will hold its constituent practices to account.
* GP consortia will agree local priorities each year, taking account of the NHS Outcomes Framework.
* GPs will need to engage patients and the public in the commissioning process.
* Over time the DoH will seek to establish a single GP contract and funding model.
* PCTs and SHAs will be phased out.
* Patients will be able to choose which GP practice they register with regardless of where they live.
* The current performance regime will be replaced with separate frameworks for public health and social care.
* A new NHS Outcomes Framework will provide the direction for the NHS.
* The government will incentivise ways of improving access to primary care in disadvantaged area

As you can see from the above link it looks as if the bell for the last round of the PCT’s within England and Wales has been called.
Within that page its also revealed that;

Health secretary Andrew Lansley confirmed “that PCTs would cease to exist in 2013 and that SHAs would be replaced by 2012/13.”

The editor of Health Care Republic is also concerned that this new governement whitepaper, far from allowing greater freedom to local GP surgeries is actually paving the way for privatisation of our beloved NHS.

“that GP consortia are ‘odds-on’ to fall into deficit and be taken over by private firms when they take on commissioning, “according to east London GP Dr Kambiz Boomla.

So is this the final call for the NHS, I know this has been asked before, but under the current climate and the proposals being put forward eminent doctors are coming forward and complaining that privatisation is just around the corner.

“‘It seems odds-on that a number of GP groups will be struggling financially. If you marry that with the explicit pledge that the government will not tolerate failing organisations, groups will be either taken over by neighbouring groups or private organisations.’

Dianne Conduit, director of commissioning support at Humana, said the company would consider taking over consortia where local GPs are not performing.

‘We can provide elements of the service or look at providing the whole package,’ she said.” – Firms to bid to run GP consortia if they fail

…..What will this mean for our borough?

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Debbie Cordrey of Poplar Harca offers to answer questions

August 11, 2010

Today I recieved a comment from Debbie Cordrey who sits as a resident member on the Poplar Harca Main Board, is Chair of the Poplar Harca Finance & Audit Board, and also Vice Chair of the Joint Estate Panel.

The comment was recieved in response to this post: “Poplar Harca call Closed Meetings for Lansbury West Estate Board: August 5, 2010”. That meeting by the way was called off at the last minute. Sources tell me that members who were invited were not given any agendas, or minutes from any previous meetings, and the meeting was called off with little explanation.

First of all, Debbie if your reading this; my apologies if this comment is from someone impersonating you, and if the real Debbie Cordrey wishes for me to remove this post, proving that she is the real Debbie Cordrey, (sources within Poplar Harca tell me that you can contact me using your poplarharca email that is given to all board members) I will gladly do so…

Heres the comment attached to the bottom of the post above:

“I know we live in a country where freedom of speech is celebrated but it¹s a real shame your using this blog to write completely inaccurate and highly misleading information.

I am a resident of Poplar HARCA and the Vice Chair of the Joint Estate Panel and I want to set the record straight about the constitutional changes.

These weren’t just dreamt up by Poplar HARCA, they were developed by the residents after a lot of consultation and agreed by the Joint Estate Panel unanimously which is a group that is made up from representatives from all the estate boards in Poplar. Residents worked very hard on this and it is an insult to me and the other residents to say that our proposals are a breach of your constitutional rights.

I don’t know what is going on at Lansbury West and I’m sure not everyone agrees with everything, but these changes were voted on

fairly at the meeting, including by the representatives from Lansbury West.

To see our ideas being misrepresented in this way is very upsetting.

I’m not sure who is putting this stuff out, but I am prepared to say who I am and meet with you. Are you prepared to do the same?

Debbie Cordrey


Comment by Debbie Cordrey — August 10, 2010 @ 5:24

Thankyou for your comments Debbie, and especially this one;

“Residents worked very hard on this and it is an insult to me and the other residents to say that our proposals are a breach of your constitutional rights.”

As I’ve stated in the response to your comment on the above post, I cannot see any reason to meet with you, but I do appreciate the offer of setting the record straight, and always welcome open discussion, so here goes;

As a representative of Poplar Harca could you please explain to the residents of Lansbury West why you agreed to do away with the following ammendments in your new constitution;

7. Ordinary General Meetings of Lansbury West Estate Board
d) amendments to the constitution of the Lansbury West Estate Board may be made at Ordinary General Meetings, subject to these being agreed by a majority of all Estate Board members (a minimum of 51% of elected members). Any agreed changes must then be ratified at the next Annual General Meeting of the Lansbury West Estate Board.

It then goes on to state within section 8 that;

8. Annual General Meeting of Lansbury West Estate Board

c) fourteen days prior notice must have been given to the Secretary of the Lansbury west Estate Board for any amendments to the Lansbury West Estate Board constitution. Such amendments must be approved by a two-thirds majority of voting members of the Lansbury West Estate Board at the Annual General Meeting and will then be the subject to approval by the Poplar HARCA Board.

The above two ammendments to the constitutions from what I’m told are both ratified and agreed by all of the Estate Board Members of the Lansbury West Estate Board. These two ammendments seem democtratically sound, and just. Residents tell me that this is the basis of the entire argument, as well as some other pretty disturbing changes (residents feel that they require full and open discussions by Estate Board Members), they feel they have the right to discuss and vote on any of the proposed changes, but for some reason Poplar Harca do not.

So let me ask you this Debbie, do you agree that members of any of the Estate Boards should be allowed to discuss and vote on these changes proposed by yourself and your members of the Joint Estate Panel (in closed sessions), which you have worked so diligently hard to change?

The above ammendments all seems straightforward, and is the template for which most if not all constitutions in history are based on. This ability for any organistion to change its constitution is indispensable for members, its also at the core of what defines a constituion. This right for members to propose, discuss and agree to changes to its constitution, is of paramount importance to the whole definition of constitutions.

Harca now want to take this basic right away from the hands of members and residents feel that in doing so they are putting a stranglehold on any opposing views. The way in which constitutions can get ammended now in the new constitution is as follows, all in its own section, but far more complicated;

13. Constitution Amendments

a) Proposed amendments to this constitution should be considered in terms of their suitability for all Estate Boards or to respond to a clearly specified requirment unique to an individual Estate.

b) The Lansbury West Estate Board may submit potential amendments to the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group throughout the year for the purposes fo discussion and to seek clarification and advice.

c) Proposed amendments must be provided by the Lansbury West Estate Board to the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group by April 30th each year in order to be considered at that years round of Annual General Meetings.

d) Proposed amendments will be collated and distributed by the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group to all Estate Boards for consideration at their Annual General Meeting and will require the approval of a two-thirds majority of residents attending each Estate Board Annual General Meeting. Amendments will then be subject to approval by the Joint Estate Panel and the Poplar Board.

e) Changes agreed by this process will be applied to the constitutions of all Estate Boards, with the exception of any requirements unique to an Estate, which will be recorded in item 14 of this Constitution.

What you’ve supported and voted on here Debbie is a complete mess.
You’ve created a system that allows others to change your constitution for you. For instance if another estate board suggests a change to the constitution and 1 third of the Estate Boards disagree with the change, (thats 4 whole boards) then they will be forced to accept the change. Also and more importantly any change that one Estate Board wants to commit to their own constitution, requires the approval of other at least 7 other Estate Boards, as well as all of the other hoops they have to jump through.

Now could you explain to me why you would agree to something as ridiculous as that. What purpose does it take to devolve this simple constitutional right that all other organisations have and lovingly protect. For some reason Debbie, it comes across to members & residents, that you; Debbie Cordrey, the Joint Estate Panel, and the Constitutional Advisory Group and Poplar Harca overall dont seem to trust the Individual Estate Boards with the conventional power to change their own constitutions.

It may seem as if I’m oversimpifying these matters but this constitutional right to change your own constitution within the original document is paramount to the rights of not only the Boards, but also to the residents that they purport to represent. Each change to a constitution, and the constitutions themselves are the only form of contract that Estate Boards hold, these must not only be protected from automatic changes now, but also into the future. By taking away this basic tenet of constitutional authority, you have paved the way for chaos within the organisation. Now and for ever more, by proposing this, voting for and accepting this basic change, to the way the changes themselves are made you have lost your constitutions and basically made them worthless documents, that are meaningless to your members, let alone the residents who you so fondly claim to represent.

Could you explain to me also Debbie, why your résumé for Poplar Harca makes no mention of your position on the Joint Estate Panel? Not that I disbelieve you, far from it, it’s just that it leads to other questions that have been bothering me of late.

Why are “Joint Estate Panel” meetings not publically minuted like the rest of the Poplar Harca Boards?, or even alluded to within the Boards section of Poplar Harca’s website?
Why is it that none of the board meetings are advertised, and more importantly are not open to the public?

Oh one other thing Debbie, as a member of the Finance & Audit Board, could you please comment on the emails that I’m getting from members of Poplar Harca’s Estate Cleaners. I’m told that Poplar Harca’s Estate Cleaners are the lowest paid in Tower Hamlets amongst all forms of cleaners for social housing estates in the Borough. I’m also told that the organisation you represent doesn’t even pay them the “London Living Wage” which is used to tackle poverty within london providing workers with the basic means to support not only themselves but also their families. Workers tell me that the unions have threatened Strike Action with Poplar Harca, and that Steve Stride himself is in direct negotiations with these Union representatives. Please could you clarify Poplar Harca’s position on this and if these statements are true?
If the statements about the low-pay, being the lowest paid in Tower Hamlets and also being below the London Living Wage which is there to ease poverty are all true?, how does that make you feel representing an organisation on its “Finance & Audit Board” and quite possibly being responsible for potentially pushing families into poverty?

I await your response enthusiastically..

Tower Hamlets Homes – Decent Homes Contractor about to go Bust?

August 9, 2010
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Connaught, the major works contractor for Tower Hamlets Homes, who at the moment are carrying out works to properties on the St Vincents Estate in limehouse are looking like they are in serious trouble.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the sub-contractors to Connaught on the St Vincents estates who are installing toilets, went on strike as they had not been paid by Connaught. Connaught themselves who recently have been marred by accusations of financial irregularities are now being investigated by the Financial Services Authority for potential market abuse;

“The company has suspended Peter Jones, the managing director of Connaught Partnerships, the social housing maintenance division, amid an internal investigation.

Mr Jones made £264,953 by selling 68,000 shares on May 21 and 17,839 shares on June 23. Connaught issued its profits warning on June 25.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Connaught held a board meeting on June 23, the day of the second share sale, where the senior executive directors warned of public sector clients deferring social housing spending. Sir Roy Gardner, the chairman, gave management 48 hours to validate the figures, before the findings were issued to the market late in the afternoon on June 25.

Mr Jones was not at the board meeting, but runs the division that the figures related to. He is registered with the City watchdog as a “person discharging managerial responsibility”, which means both the company and the regulator deem him to have in-depth company information and he must seek permission each time he deals in the company’s shares.

FSA rules state directors must disclose any share dealings within four working days, but the dealings were only disclosed to the market on Tuesday. That statement also revealed Mr Jones bought back 7,217 shares on July 16 at a cost of £9,000 .

An FSA probe could leave Mr Jones with a fine or facing criminal proceedings for market abuse. ” – FSA investigates Connaught director’s share sale ahead of profits warning

The company who only a year ago were living a healthy lifestyle, and share were floating at around 300 pence per share have had a disastrous few months, only 2 weeks ago they secured a £15 million loan facility that enabled them to avert further strikes by their sub-contractors. But now as they have warned, they

“probably breached the terms of its loan covenants, which would entitle its banks to seize control.” – Connaught in emergency talks over debt-for-equity swap

On Friday their shares dropped a further 50% to just 15.5 pence a share, as of right now their shares are priced at 12.08 pence

None of this looks good for Connaught, watching the market tickers, it looks as if the share-holders are jumping ship under threat of losing everything. What this means for those living on the St Vincents Estate and anywhere else in the Borough if they collapse who knows.

Tower Hamlets Homes today are holding emergency talks with those living on the St Vincents Estate including members of the Residents Association to inform them of the situation at hand regarding the beleaguered contractor. Residents are extremely concerned at the news, as they have been campaigning years for their homes to be refurbished to the decent homes standard. Some are immediately concerned on wether the works have already been paid for by Tower Hamlets Homes, and that if Connaught collapses what would this mean for the unfinished works?

As this is ongoing at the moment I will endeavour to keep you updated.

Poplar Harca call Closed Meetings for Lansbury West Estate Board

August 5, 2010

Residents of the Lansbury West Estate are up in arms this week, as their chosen respresentatives of the Board are barred from attending next weeks “Ordinary General Meeting”.

At least 11 members of the board who refused to sign the new constitution without being allowed to discuss the changes, are being disallowed from attending their own board meeting. They’ve told me that Harca have called a closed meeting of the Estate Board, (something that only members have the constitutional authority to do) and that it will not be at the Hind Grove Community Hall, where it has always been held. The closed meeting which Harca claim even residents cannot attend will be held at Poplar Harca’s main offices at 167a East India Dock Road

Sources within Poplar Harca have told me that its being held within the main offices because Poplar Harca’s Residents Engagement Team, can secure who can and cannot enter the building. Also that with the new Chrisp Street Market Dispersal Zone set up to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour. Poplar Harca believe they can use these new powers to dissaude any people who turn up to attend the meeting who are not invited company members, and also crush any dissenting activity, such as protestations, picketing or balloting.

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Poplar Harca Contractor investigated for Fraud

August 5, 2010
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United House Ltd one of the contractors who won a huge slice of Poplar Harca’s £445 million pound contracts for Housing development and Regeneration across its nine estates is being investigated for fraud by Islington Council.

Islington council are launching a fraud inquiry into its two “Private Finance Initiative (PFI)” schemes over concerns raised by Leaseholders with regards to overcharging and quality of work;

“Charges to leaseholders under Islington’s PFI scheme are capped at £10,000, with the PFI consortium covering the rest.

Dr Brian Potter, chair of the Islington Leaseholders’ Association, said: ‘Some of this work would have £40,000 spent on it and you wouldn’t believe it, it was just a coat of paint and a couple of new windows.’

The probe will look at whether consultation procedures were followed, bills were accurate and on time, errors in leases were identified and leaseholders contacted, and whether building and planning regulations were complied with.” – Islington launches fraud inquiry into housing PFIs Inside Housing Magazine 23/07/10

These allegations seem to have been going on for some time and United House Ltd., Kent, who won a multiple awardees contract award from Poplar HARCA in December 2009, have been implicated in numurous breaches of rules and regulations. It would seem that council officials from Islington also have come under suspicion for covering up the scandal;

“London, Islington, August 2008: HBOS owned Partners For Improvement in Islington (PFI Ltd), and their Head of Quality, Ed Butler, acting in cohort with Nic Treble from United House Ltd, have “passed off” part of the £ 350 million Islington Decent Home works as “meeting FULL AVAILABILITY” standard for works that Independent Regulators (CORGI) and Islington’s own experts have condemmed as a

“danger to life and property” (CORGI)
“criminal ”
“non-compliant with statutory requirements” and
“down right dangerous

Even though Islington’s Chief Executive, John Foster, and Islington internal Anti-fraud officer,Jim Hodges, have been handed Enforcement, Inspection and Expert Reports which evidence that false certification documentation was being used to obtain public funds (and also enhanced performance bonus payments) we understand that nobody from the PFI consortium, no officer from Homes for Islington who failed to verify compliance and performance, nor a single officer involved in Islington Council’s bodged cover-up have been interviewed under caution or have been suspended pending an investigation by Councillors or the owners of the PFI .”


…..Please click on the link above it makes for fascinating reading.

Price Waterhouse have been brought in to investigate the claims made against United House, as an internal investigation by United House found no proof of the claims.
Well no surprise there..I wonder has any one of these internal investigations ever revealed a crime?

A National Audit Office report into Housing PFI’s has revealed that Islingtons only two PFI schemes costs have spiraled since their original business plans were put forward, one as much as 3 times as large.
Over both schemes the costs have gone over by as much as £160 million pounds.

Not only is United House under a cloud of suspicion but so are some of the other 14 successful bidders into Poplar Harca’s round of £445 million pound contracts for Poplar.

An Office of Fair Trading investigation over a 5 year period revealed that at least a 100 top construction firms were colluding to overcharge local authorities and major building projects;

“The infringements affected building projects across England worth in excess of £200 million including schools, universities hospitals, and numerous private projects from the construction of apartment blocks to housing refurbishments.” – OFT press release 2009: Construction Firms fined for Illegal Bid-Rigging

“A firm that did not want to win the contract would submit a price that was much too high. In some cases, the successful bidder would then reward them with a secret payment.Cover pricing meant the tendering authority, which could be a local council or other customer, received a false impression of the level of competition and could end up paying inflated prices. The OFT found 199 offences where the 103 companies artificially inflated £200m worth of work.” – The Guardian 22 September 2009

Despite these firms being fined a total of 129.5 million between them, the average fines were a mere 1.1% of these firms global average turnover. So just a smack on the wrist after an investigation costing millions and taking over 5 years, revealed these firms were colluding to cheat the taxpayer out of millions. What galls me, is they even though they were caught “bang to rights”, that because they admitted their guilt, their fines were reduced, some with upto 50% to 65% leniency in discounts on the scale of their fines, because they admitted it.

“Eighty-six out of the 103 firms received reductions in their penalties because they admitted their involvement in cover pricing prior to today’s decision.” – OFT Press Release 2009: Construction firms fined for illegal bid-rigging

At least two others (Durkan Limited & Galliford Try) on Poplar Harca’s special list of successful bidders taking a share of the £445 million pound pot were part of the OFT investigation into over a 100 construction firms and were caught out colluding to push up prices on Local Authority Projects. Durkan Limited were fined £6,720,551, and Galliford Try, £8,333,329.

So I wonder how does Poplar Harca feel about dealing with companies that have been caught up in schemes that implicate them in what seems to be apparent fraudulant activities to fleece the taxpayer out of milions of pounds?

Oh I forgot to say….one last side note. After winning part of the £445 million pound contract to increase the density and misery of those already living in Poplar, Poplar Harca’s successful bidder “United House Ltd” then went on to sponsor the “Tenant Empowerement Team of the Year Award” as part of this years Housing Heroes Awards 2010……

….Poplar Harca’s “Resident Engagement Team led by Fintan Tynan” , won the award this year.

Funny that..