Cash crisis hospital paid NHS chief £2,557 a day… to cut costs!

A cash-strapped NHS hospital paid £2,557 a day for an interim boss, it emerged yesterday. For working just 97 days during his ten-month stint in charge, Derek Smith earned a staggering £248,041. The 61-year-old also claimed just under £20,000 in expenses to cover travel, food and subsistence during that time, in which he worked an average of three or four days a week. His daily rate is significantly more than a nurse would expect to earn in an entire month.

Dorset County Hospital, which is £5.1million in the red, also hired three other interim directors to work alongside Mr Smith:

* Terry Tonks, the interim director of finance, was paid £222,106 for 158 days, or £1,405 per day;

* James Shillito, interim ‘ turnaround director’, cost £110,712: £1,230 per day for 90 days;

* Tracey Peters, interim director of human resources, earned £115,491, or £663 a day for 174 days.

Between them, the trio also claimed over £28,000 in expenses.

Mr Smith, a father of three, was ‘provided’ to the hospital as a temporary boss until the beginning of this month by health management consultancy Durrow, of which he is the chief executive. The Buckinghamshire-based firm also has his 44-year-old wife, Ruth Harrison, as a director.

Previously an NHS leader herself, she sparked outrage when she was given a £140,000 ‘golden handshake’ to leave Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire after 33 patients died in a superbug scandal while she was in charge between 2003 and 2005.

Yesterday Mr Smith refused to comment at the couple’s £1.5million detached home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. A sailing enthusiast, Mr Smith has an eight-year-old son, as well as two grown-up children from a previous relationship.

In 1999, after 25 years in administrative roles in the NHS – including the top job at King’s College Hospital in London – he took a £150,000-a-year job as managing director of the London Underground but resigned in 2001 after clashes with the then mayor, Ken Livingstone.

He was soon put in charge of Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust where in one year he earned £212,500. After being made redundant in June 2007 he was reported to have got a £300,000 payout. Two months on, he was made interim boss at University Hospitals of Leicester, which paid him £100,000 during a three-month contract.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said yesterday: ‘It is frankly unbelievable that these shockingly high sums of money continue to be spent at the same time nurses and other staff are seeing frontline services cut and being asked to accept a pay freeze. ‘The Trust needs to justify why it was paying a rate equivalent to over half a million pounds a year for an interim chief executive.’

The trust’s report for the period from September 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010, also shows it paid financial consultants Ernst and Young £349,608 and PricewaterhouseCoopers £420,571 for advice.

The document was presented to governors at the hospital, who were told the trust needed to save £20million over the next three years.

But Jeffrey Ellwood, the Bentley-driving chairman of the NHS Trust, insisted the four executives’ pay was ‘not an excessive sum’ as under them the trust had developed a ‘recovery plan which now stands us in very good stead for tackling our financial challenges’.

Mr Smith has been replaced by another interim until October, when a permanent replacement takes over on a salary of £140,000.


Atheists ‘could set up free schools’ in Britain

Atheist state schools could be established under the Government’s education reforms, Michael Gove has said. The Education Secretary said he would be “interested” to look at proposals for non-religious schools from figures such Professor Richard Dawkins. Prof Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said last month that he approved of the idea of setting up a “free-thinking” school.

The comments follow the publication of Coalition plans to give parents’ groups, teachers and charities powers to open their own schools at taxpayers’ expense.

Addressing the Commons education select committee, Mr Gove said parents opposed to faith-based schools should be properly catered for in the state education system.

“One of the most striking things that I read recently was a thought from Richard Dawkins that he might want to take advantage of our education legislation to open a new school which was set up on an explicitly atheist basis,” he said. “It wouldn’t be my choice of school, but the whole point about our education reforms is that they are, in the broad sense of the word, small “l”, liberal. That they exist to provide that greater degree of choice.”

Around a third of the 21,000 state primaries and secondaries in England are currently faith schools. The majority are Anglican or Roman Catholic, with small numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu schools.

By law, all other schools must provide religious education and stage a compulsory Christian assembly every day, although parents have the power to withdraw children.

Last month, Prof Dawkins, a former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, said he approved of the idea of atheist schools. “I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school,” he said. “I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. “Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded.”

Mr Gove, whose two children attend primary faith schools, told the cross-party group of MPs that he “recognised that there are some people who explicitly do not want their children educated in a faith-based setting”.

He said: “One of the principles behind our education reforms is to give people the maximum amount of choice so that those people, and they may not themselves necessarily have a very strong religious faith, but who believe that the ethos and values of faith-based education are right for their child, have that choice but others who want a different approach can take it as well.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Gove said: “If Prof Dawkins wants to set up a school we would be very interested to look at an application.”


Privately-educated British Conservative politician says ‘rich, thick kids’ do better than ‘poor, clever children’

He may be a bit thick himself — as he seems to ignore the importance of home background. Families who pay for their kid’s education are probably more involved in it and make sure their kid does the hard yards

‘Rich thick kids’ end up overtaking ‘poor clever children’ at school, Michael Gove said yesterday. The Education Secretary complained that success at school is still too closely linked to children’s family background. Privately educated Mr Gove said a ‘ yawning gap’ had opened up between the attainment of poorer youngsters and their wealthier peers.

But last night head teachers’ leaders protested at the use of the word ‘thick’ by a cabinet minister. Mick Brookes, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Thick is not a word that is currently in use in schools. It is demeaning to children.’

Mr Gove cited research showing that wealthy youngsters at the bottom of the ability range pull ahead of brighter but poorer children around the age of six, and the gulf continues to widen as they move through school. His warning came as the Government launched a review of educational under-achievement in England’s poorest areas.

Giving evidence to MPs yesterday, Mr Gove said he had been ‘very struck’ by research by the Institute of Education. ‘Children from wealthy backgrounds of low cognitive ability overtake children from poor backgrounds and high cognitive ability before they even arrive at school,’ he said. ‘So in effect, rich thick kids do better than poor clever children, and when they arrive at school the situation as they go through gets worse.’

The Institute of Education research analysed data relating to 17,000 children born in 1970. Their educational development was tested at 22 months and at intervals during their schooling. Their qualifications at 26 were also checked.

Children from affluent families who were in the bottom 25 per cent of the ability range at 22 months went on to overtake youngsters from the poorest backgrounds who started out in the top 25 per cent. They began to overtake around age six or seven, and the gap widened as they progressed through school.

Mr Gove said the Coalition’s school reforms would help close the attainment gap.

Under measures which passed into law this week, state primary and secondary schools will be able to opt out of local authority control and operate as state-funded but independent academies. The policy is intended to boost academic standards by giving schools greater freedom to decide the curriculum, teachers’ pay and school year.


More of Britain’s petty bureaucracy

Council orders family having picnic to remove £12.99 windbreak – branding it ‘semi-permanent structure’ — but publicity brings the usual repentance

A picnic just wouldn’t be a picnic without the great British weather trying to ruin it. Jon Hacker and his family were prepared for that – what they didn’t count on, however, was a pair of overzealous council officers trying even harder.

After the family put up a windbreak to protect them from the blustery conditions on a day out, they spotted a 4×4 speeding ominously towards them across the Downs. Council enforcement officers leapt out and ordered them to take down the £12.99 plastic sheet because it classified as a ‘semi-permanent structure’. The windbreak was in breach of by-laws aimed at protecting Clifton Downs, Bristol, the officers said.

Mr Hacker, 41, was trying to enjoy a picnic with wife Claire and daughters Sophie, 11, and Emily, eight. He said: ‘One of the officers asked who had erected the “semi- permanent structure”. ‘I said, “Are you talking about the windbreak?”

‘He said that windbreaks weren’t allowed due to the by-laws on the Downs. One of them gave me a leaflet about the by-laws and it said you weren’t allowed to put up tents or a gazebo, but it didn’t say anything about a windbreak. ‘My family and I were shocked to be informed that we were breaking the law. I think they were being very strict.’

The intervention was all the more galling as it ruined the day for one of their daughter’s friends, Erika, 11, who was visiting from Spain.

Mr Hacker, an IT worker, added: ‘We took the windbreak down and it was so windy our paper plates and serviettes were blowing everywhere. ‘We didn’t want to leave a mess as that would be breaking the law as well, so we packed up and drove home and ended up finishing our picnic in our garden. ‘I can understand about bonfires and tents damaging the environment but, come on, a windbreak?’

Article 5 of the by-laws, headed ‘erection of structures’, states: ‘No person shall on the Downs, without the consent of the Downs Committee, erect any post, rail, fence, pole, tent, booth, stand, building or other structure.’ Anyone contravening the by-laws, which also ban lighting fires on the grass, could incur a fixed penalty fine, or a maximum £500 fine if the case went to court.

A spokesman for Bristol City Council yesterday admitted their employees had gone over the top. He said: ‘We apologise to the gentleman and his family. Clearly there needs to be discretion when enforcing the by-laws of the Downs.

‘They are designed to prevent tents and gazebos being put up on the Downs, but there should be flexibility to allow families to use windbreaks – we shall instruct our enforcement officers and rangers on this basis.’


British farmer refused permission to build a home… while an illegal gypsy site flourished next door

A farmer has been denied planning permission to build a home on his property for 13 years – while a neighbouring illegal travellers site was allowed to flourish.

Bruce Margetts, 46, has been living in a mobile home on his 47-acre farm in Smithy Fen near Cottenham, Cambs., since 1998 while applying to build a modest bungalow.

But despite having tended cattle on the site since 1992, South Cambridgeshire District Council has refused planning permission for a permanent residence three times.

Over the same period the Smithy Fen travellers site next door – just half a mile away – has boomed and was home to more than 800 illegal travellers at its peak in 2003. The 11-acre legitimate travellers site grew to 20-acres without planning permission, while Mr Margetts was told his three-bed property is not suitable for the farm.

Seven unlawful plots at Smithy Fen currently remain occupied without planning permission, featuring semi-permanent structures.

Mr Margetts fears he will lose his livelihood if he is not able to build the bungalow. He said: ‘When I first moved into the mobile home, I thought it would just be for a few years and now it’s been around 13. ‘I’m able to raise a mortgage to build a house, but I’m just waiting for the planning permission. ‘At the moment, I’m in an advanced state of camping and I’m relying on the council to continue granting temporary permits.

‘It’s essential that I’m here to look after the cattle but if I was unable to live here then I would lose everything. I’m a one man band, living and working alone. ‘I just want a permanent residence here that’s not going to get in anyone’s way. I’ve planted around 400 trees since I moved here so no one will even see it.

Mr Margetts has spent about £8,000 on planning applications since 2001 and plans to apply again this year.

‘There are travellers in the area that seem to have been treated much more leniently than I have,’ he said. ‘You would think that the council would want to support people who are investing money into the local economy.’

Mr Margetts tends to about 100 cattle on Oxholme Farm and needs to be on site to be on hand for calving, feeding and in case of accidents or emergencies.

According to government guidelines, those wishing to build country housing must demonstrate an essential need and the viability of their business.

Deborah Roberts, Independent councillor for SCDC, said she had a great deal of sympathy for Mr Margetts’ plight. She said: ‘I find it extraordinary that Bruce is not being supported in his ambitions to build a modest home on his land at his own expense. ‘Bruce has a large herd and needs to be on the land 24/7 to tend to them. He is currently living in a ramshackle mobile home that is not at all suitable for his needs. ‘Traveller families with no connection to the Fens have been allowed to stay when they do not need to be here.’

Last September the council was criticised for spending £13,000 installing sewage facilities at a gypsy site to protect their human rights – and recovering just £500 from the travellers.

A spokesman for SCDC said: ‘Mr Margetts has been granted permission for a mobile home on the land while he establishes his business. ‘As the proposal is for a house in the countryside, the applicant must demonstrate that it is both essential and viable – for example, for providing 24 hour care for animals. ‘These are Government requirements. So far he has been unable to show us the financial information needed to confirm the viability of the farm.

The spokesman said if the farm continued to progress, Mr Margetts would eventually be allowed to build a permanent dwelling.


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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