The problem of fuel poverty, affecting the lives of hundreds of social housing tenants in the Marlborough area, is set to be solved by making use of the government’s CERT funding scheme, whose existence too few of them know about.
CERT – the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target – ensures that all the major energy providers can utilise generous grants on offer for loft and cavity wall insulation and enables people to switch to more energy efficient and flexible heating systems.
To date this generous funding has been drastically under-utilised in the county, despite Wiltshire Council identifying 985 dwellings in the Marlborough area that have inadequate heating and insulation.
This makes them more vulnerable to rising energy costs, creating fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of the household income is spent on energy.
Members of Transition Marlborough set up a meeting with town councillors, a local tenant, Wiltshire Council’s SEACS energy ambassadors and Aster Housing Association's energy and asset manager officers, which produced some startling statistics.
They discovered that of Aster’s 911 local properties, some 591 have an average SAP energy rating of 55 out of 100, which means that are moderately to highly inefficient, in terms of energy conservation.
As a result of this meeting and Transition Marlborough’s discussions with families in fuel poverty plus investigations of the most appropriate schemes available, a plan is now being prepared by Aster's energy manager and British Gas to take advantage of the CERT funding, before it runs out at the end of December.
And this will result in all of Aster's local tenants considered to be vulnerable, will have the energy efficiency of their homes improved, free of charge.
“This is an amazing breakthrough,” Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, who is also a member of Transition Marlborough, told Marlborough News Online.
“People suffering in these austerity times need help and by involving Aster directly in the process up to 600 homes can be insulated, not only saving an average of £175 per year in energy bills but also by contributing to the government’s greenhouse gas emissions saving target of 293 MtCO2e (Metric Tonne CO2 equivalent).”
He added: “It seems that the CERT funding has not been taken up by individual families because of the lengthy form filling process. So we are delighted that Aster managers have agreed to take on this task here in Marlborough, so that we can take advantage of the help that is on hand for those in serious need.
“And that is very much thanks to the determination and effort of Dr Sam Page and the Marlborough Transition group in seeking ways to provide help and support to those under the cosh of rising energy bills.”
Members of Transition Marlborough will be displaying information about the CERT scheme, the Warm and Well Scheme and the Warm Home Discount Scheme, along with free draught-busting kits at Sunday’s communities market in Marlborough High Street.
Councillor Richard PittsMarlborough College received another slap in the face from town councillors on Monday when a planning application for new gates to be erected in the College’s listed boundary wall in Bridewell Street was rejected.
Members of the planning committee, who had voted unanimously in August against the College’s plans for a new Puffin crossing at the spot, again turned it down.
But Councillor Richard Pitts declared that students didn’t use the two existing Pelican crossings, which made another crossing and the new gates unnecessary.
The College’s aim was to provide a safer crossing into the College for students due to occupy its new female hostel in the former Ivy House Hotel, the second application providing attractive new gates for students on the narrow pavement edge.
Committee vice-chairman Councillor Gordon Francis suggested that the new crossing was also for the use of students crossing from the College’s School of Art.
“Nevertheless, this is for a change in their listed boundary wall. This is all subjective and entirely dependant on whether approval is given for the new crossing.”
“There are some photographs of the wall which show that there are two different courses of bricks at the place where they want to put this gate. That’s what makes it somewhat ugly.”
It will be up to Wiltshire Council to decide the fate of both applications, but Councillor Peggy Dow, who is one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, also objected.
“We haven’t got many walls now that are still listed,” she protested. “We seem to be losing them all the time. The wall will lose its attraction. Personally I’m against this.”
Councillor Pitts agreed.
“The point is that they don’t use the crossings that they have already,” he said. “There was a point the other day where the kids were running across the road. There is no reason to have this crossing. So therefore there is no reason to knock a hole in this wall.”
Councillor Stewart Dobson followed suit.
“I think we should stick to our guns and say there should be no crossing at all,” he said. “We should go back to our old argument that they have two crossings already in the vicinity. They are perfectly adequate.”
Councillor Francis pointed out that the application was about a listed wall, not the new crossing.
And Councillor Pitts retorted: “I am happy to propose we should reject this and turn to next business. It is unnecessary damage to a currently listed wall.”
The committee agreed.
All the cafes, pubs and outlets providing beverages in Marlborough are to be asked to complete a questionnaire on how their business has been affected since the arrival of Caffe Nero five months ago.
This is being done on the initiative of Councillor Margaret Rose (pictured), chair of the town council’s planning committee, who announced the mission at the committee’s meeting last night (Monday).
“If this council doesn’t stand up for small businesses then it will be very remiss of us,” she told fellow councillors in seeking their support in joining her conducting the survey, details of which are now being prepared.
The survey results will provide the town council’s evidence when the belated public inquiry into Wiltshire Council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning consent to Caffe Nero, now likely to take place on January 6, is held.
As yet, the exact date and venue of the event has not been agreed by the Planning Inspectorate (based in Bristol), but October 29 has been fixed as the deadline for the appointed planning inspector to receive all objections and comments – in triplicate.
Councillor Rose said that Caffe Nero, which has won 16 out of 17 planning appeals in towns across the country after it had opened for business without planning consent, would provide figures of how well it had done since arriving in Marlborough High Street in April.
“I would like to survey all the cafes to see how many of them have lost business,” she pointed out. “I believe Caffe Nero’s decision to cream off customers is detrimental to the town.”
Councillor Peggy Dow, also a Wiltshire councillor, interjected: “That’s an excellent idea.” And other councillors too gave their blessing to the survey – there are some 20 outlets in the town -- being carried out.
Councillor Rose added that Councillor Richard Gamble, vice-chairman of Wiltshire’s eastern area planning committee, would be presenting the case on “strong planning issues” as to why Caffe Nero should be denied retrospective consent.
“But as a council we must be concerned by the effect Caffe Nero’s decision has had on businesses,” said Councillor Rose. “If other councillors want to come round with me they can.”
“That will ensure that every café and bar is done. It is the smaller cafes who are suffering . I want us to cover every outlet that sells beverages. I thank you for your support. I appreciate that.”
Anyone may submit their views in writing direct to The Planning Inspectorate, 3/26 Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN, quoting the reference APP/Y3940/C/12/2183497 and E/2012/00077/ENF.
They have to be made in triplicate, any representations made after that deadline not normally being seen by the planning inspector will be returned.
Views expressed will be disclosed to Caffe Nero and are liable to be read out at the inquiry hearing.
Michael FraynMistaken identity makes the world go round – creating the laughter so traditionally found in comedy and farce dating back to the Greek gods, who reinvented themselves in search of love.
That was the delightful theme Michael Frayn, the prize-winning novelist, playwright and author of screenplays, as he retold the basic ideas behind his new comic novel called Skios, a totally fictional name for a Greek island he invented.
Yet, to prove his point, he recalled at the Marlborough literary festival last night (Saturday) that admirers had come up to him on his promotional tours for the book to tell him they knew the island well.
And that brought down the house at Marlborough town hall where a packed audience succumbed to his exceptional tales of true events that ought to make them wonder whether he was really Michael Frayn and not some commercial franchise aiming to dumbfound them.
He revealed how this was in fact the case with the pop star Little Richard -- and a major Moscow orchestra too -- who appeared in different places at the same time without their audiences being aware they were being cheated.
One man who protested vehemently at a Little Richard concert some years ago was hauled off by security guards as if he were mental. Yet 18 months later his claim was proved to be true, people always willing to hide their identities for nefarious purposes.
“How do you know I am Michael Frayn?” he asked them. “Who knows, some shaven haired security guards might come and haul me off at any moment.”
Indeed, he pointed out that the festival aide who had picked him up at Swindon railway station had never met him before, as was the case in Skios where his colourful hero, an ebullient Boris Johnson-type character, changes his identity without difficulty.
Having stupidly picked up the suitcase of an eminent scientist on the baggage carousel and seeing a young woman with a placard with the man’s name on it, one of half a dozen waiting to collect people, goes off with her, in more than one sense.
“Have you ever been tempted?” asked Frayn. “I confess I have always been tempted to go round and claim I am the name on the card because it would be so interesting to step into someone else’s life and see someone else’s world.”
“Those waiting at airports don’t know person they have been sent to pick or what they look like. I wouldn’t do it because I’m far too timid.”
But he had a manic depressive friend who was a danger to himself because nobody knew what he might do next.
“He was walking along Fleet Street, he was a journalist, and saw in the slow-moving traffic a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce with white ribbons on it,” Frayn recalled. “What he wanted to do was to get into the car and tell the bride and groom the story of his life.”
“That’s what he did. According to him it was a great success because he is such a charming fellow. And no doubt somewhere today there is the bride thinking how much her life might have turned out very differently if she had gone off and married him.”
Indeed, he pointed out, the masked ball of the 18th century was a perfect ploy for people to have secret assignations thanks to being able to hide their true identity, providing endless possibilities for fun and frolics.
Fact or fiction, it didn’t matter, the laughter from 79-year-old Frayn’s delicious stories undoubtedly adding to the audience’s sheer enjoyment.
As he told them at the start, when he set out on his Skios travels he received an email from the Society of Authors telling him that he needed public liability insurance.
“People nowadays sue their doctors for miss-diagnosis, they sue the council for making them trip up over paving stones, they sue their lawyers for failing to collect damages,” he pointed out.
“But I am not at all clear what I can do to you which will be so awful that it will get you suing? The only thing I can think of is getting a writ from someone who says my beloved mother-in-law passed away following the event the other night because you bored her to death.”
That Michael Frayn failed gloriously to achieve.
See Michael Frayn reveals hidden trauma - September 17
From Monday (October 1) the new GP-led Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) take over operational running of the county’s health services from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary care Trust or PCT.) It’s one of the quirks of the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS that statutory responsibility for the service remains with the PCT until the end of March 2013.
One of the major problems the CCG inherits is the seemingly unstoppable drain on the NHS budget for Wiltshire from delayed discharges from hospital – known as DTOCs (for delayed transfer of care.)
This is not only a local problem. Here’s Katherine Murphy, head of the national Patients Association, getting to the heart of the matter: “At the moment, health and social care are not joined up, so people are left occupying beds in hospital when they could be treated in the community if the right services were provided there – domiciliary care, physiotherapy and so on. That would mean happier patients, less chance of people getting hospital-acquired infections and less cost for the NHS.”
NHS Wiltshire’s Chairman, Tony Barron, puts it simply: “DTOCs are the end product of an appalling pathway of care” – care is not being planned beyond hospital admission and treatment. The trouble is, as Katherine Murphy underlined, it’s not ‘joined up’ - hospitals are in the hands of the NHS and social care is in the hands of Wiltshire Council.
In Wiltshire the situation is bad and is draining money from a very stretched budget. The latest figures from NHS Wiltshire show that in the week to September 20 there were seventy-four patients in hospital beds who need not have been there – that was ten more than the previous week and sixty-four more than was planned and budgeted for.
Thirty-nine patients were waiting for care homes; nine for assessment as to where they ought to go; seven for a ‘care package’ to be arranged; six for transfer to non-acute hospitals; five were the subject of disputes; and three were waiting for their care home of choice. Over the week there were 414 lost bed says – up forty-four from the previous week – which equates to an extra cost against the PCT’s budget of £100,602 for the week.
They used to be called “bed blockers” – which seemed to imply that they wanted to be in the beds, when in reality it was the social care authorities keeping them there. So they now called DTOCs – and during that week they were spread across the hospitals used by NHS Wiltshire: eighteen in community hospital beds; thirteen at Salisbury Foundation Trust; twenty-five at Bath’s RUH; twelve at Swindon’s GWH; and six in beds run by the mental health partnership.
It is the view in the PCT that “Wiltshire [Council] have not got the infrastructure in place” to cope with this problem. The Council have made changes and are still making changes - some of these were described recently to Marlborough News Online by the Council leader, Jane Scott.
And there are other changes in the pipeline such as increasing the Council’s teams working within the three acute hospitals (Bath, Salisbury and Swindon) so they can achieve faster assessment of patients’ needs as their treatment ends and they are ready to be discharged.
The PCT have over the past three years passed funding to Wiltshire Council aimed among other things at resolving the DTOC problem. In 2010-2011 it was £1,420 million; in 2011-2012 it was £7,082 million (including a payment for winter pressures.) This year it is £4,651 million so far with another £2,268 million in the budget which can be passed on as soon as agreement is reached on how it will be spent.
Some of the results can be seen. In 2011-2012 the NHS money helped the Council provide 175 extra long-term care home places; more extensive care to support people at home; an extra five social workers in the acute hospitals; and support for a 24/7 telecare response service.
There is also the Council’s STARR scheme which finds short-term beds - on the one hand to prevent people going into hospital because they urgently need social care, and on the other hand to help people coming out of hospital. This may become part of an urgent social care response service that could be better for patients and for the NHS budget.
Aditional information: Wiltshire Council runs twenty-two re-emablement beds which are at present in the STARR scheme - these will be increased to 'thirty plus'.
In June, Sue Geary, Wiltshire Council’s Head of Social Care Policy, confirmed to NHS Wiltshire that the Council had received extra funds due to the increase in patients being admitted to hospital. She said there were enough beds available, but thought too many patients were being transferred to residential beds unnecessarily.
In July, Ms Geary admitted that much work still had to be done on the STARR scheme, and the CCG’s leader, Deborah Fielding, urged that the funds should be put to use by the Council ‘as a matter of urgency’.
It was suggested to the Council that they could use an empty ward at Salisbury Foundation Trust hospital as a temporary measure to take patients ready to be discharged. The PCT is firmly against this. As Tony Barron put it: “I’m totally opposed to a bed-based solution – hospital is not the right place for people to be – to use that ugly word – warehoused.” This suggestion was quickly turned down by Wiltshire Council.
The GPs and their CCG will have to take this problem on. And it is an enduring problem partly because there is no one solution – as the PCT was told last week: “It needs a multi-pronged approach and we have to keep working on every prong all the time.”
The GPs will find themselves in something of a quandary on this issue because they are both commissioners and providers of health care. In the former role they have a budget to control and use as they think best. In the latter role they will be told by the executives in their CCG that they have to stop admitting people to hospital unnecessarily – people who when they are ready to be discharged have nowhere suitable to go.
The transition from PCT to GP-led commissioning that is the foundation of the government’s restructuring of the NHS, has six months to run. As it continues the PCT’s risk register is showing a lot of red ink – and will do so until March 31, 2013. The red ink that surrounds DTOCs may continue a lot longer.