Broadband – scrutiny and contract 3

In February, I discovered that ESCC actually gave the go-ahead for a third phase of procurement activity (“contract 3”) at the cabinet meeting on 15 November 2016.  However, this involves no new spending whatsoever by ESCC.  All the money is coming from two other sources: central government (again not new money, but underspend on contracts 1 and 2) and clawback from BT – essentially where BT were paid “too much” for contracts 1 and 2 because they underestimated demand – this is known as “Gainshare”.  So far I cannot see anywhere in the council minutes that tells one how much money will therefore be available for contract 3 – and without knowing that it is hard to predict how significant contract 3 will be.

On 23rd February 2017, I actually appeared in front of the scrutiny committee to present my evidence in person.

It was an interesting, thought not really pleasurable, experience.

I was told at the beginning that half an hour had been allocated to my evidence.  I had been led to expect a series of questions from the chairman and members of the board but that was not what transpired.

They had asked to see all my evidence package in advance, and then the chairman started off by thanking me for the evidence that I had submitted: they had all read it and understood it and he didn’t want to waste the meeting’s time by simply going through what I had already said.

This was a disconcerting start because no-one had any follow-up questions or comments on what I had said.  (I felt like a stand-up comedian giving a matinee performance in front of a sparse audience of Japanese tourists!)  Fortunately I did have a contingency plan: I expanded, with examples, on my theme that while they may have achieved much with contracts 1 and 2, they had done a very poor job on communicating with their ultimate end-users: us.  In either direction: neither communicating outwards nor listening.

As I say, there was absolutely no engagement or question or debate from members of the scrutiny board, but there was one refreshing exception: someone called Stephen Frith, who had a badge saying “Commercial adviser” and who I understand to be a BDUK employee who acts as a liaison between the e-Sussex broadband team and the BDUK organization.  Unlike the other members of the board, he was open and engaged with what I was saying and provided some useful feedback and information.

This is where the good news comes in.  Contract 3 will still be within a BDUK framework, but I got a hint that they have learned from contracts 1 and 2, and contract 3 will be more intelligent than the previous ones.  Apart from the fact that it will be open to competing bidders (and they can award contracts to more than one supplier), there will be more flexibility (within the BDUK contract 3 framework) to meet local needs and he mentioned a “points” system for evaluating proposals which will take into account the fact that there is more benefit when someone goes from 2Mbps to 10Mbps than when someone goes from 20Mbps to 28Mbps for example – he said this points system would be in the contract 3 procurement document.  it seems to me that if this is properly worked out, it would mean that suppliers had a positive incentive to do the “worst first”.

Stephen Frith also responded to one of my points, the apparent direct contradiction between this promise in the paper for the cabinet meeting of 15th November 2016:

    Clear visibility of which premises will be connected and when

and this statement in the procurement consultation that was opened the same day:

    an opportunity to substitute premises through change control where alternative cheaper premises emerge after the survey stage.

Stephen Frith responded that they recognized that “substitution” had caused significant problems during previous contracts, and they were going to handle it by allowing it only during the planning stage of contract 3 but not during the implementation stage, and that this would be in the contract 3 procurement documents.

It is hard to be sure what one has achieved by all this.  But I do feel moderately hopeful that BDUK have learned lessons so that the next contract will be a little more intelligent – and I think that the amount of “noise” that we have created around this issue does mean that ESCC will be forced to raise their game a little.

However, I don’t think we know what the timescales of contract 3 are, and I am not clear what the total budget is either, so we have a long way to go yet.

I do have one other observation about the meeting that I am not willing to put into an writing.  Perhaps there will be another way of communicating it in due course.

PS Since writing the above, the scrutiny report has been published.

{there is a cover document and then the main report is Appendix 1.

Quiz night 2017 – Spring Forward on Saturday

The Brightling Village Trust Spring Forward Quiz takes place at 7.00 pm this Saturday,  25 March 2017, in the Village Hall.  Shake out all those bits and pieces of general knowledge you’d forgotten you ever knew!  Colin Clarke from Burwash has kindly agreed to act as question master and keep us all in order so it should be a fun evening.

Tickets have been selling well but there are still a few left at £5 a head, including a light supper.  Tickets from Nicola Magill, 01424 838524 or Charles Everett, 01424 838402, cwveverett@gmail.com.  If you are thinking of coming, please let us know so we can make sure there’s enough food for everyone.

Village market to continue

Message from Chris Wing

Thank you to all those who came to the meeting last Saturday to discuss the future of the market, and to Connie for providing such delicious cakes.

I am pleased to report that the market and cafe will be continuing, as usual, on the last Saturday of the month and that the first market of the year will be on:

Saturday 25th March:   10am-Noon

Although Connie originally planned to run the cafe as a business venture, she has very kindly decided to return all profits to the village. So a big thank you to Connie, particularly as she doesn’t live in Brightling and will be coming from Hastings bright and early to set up the cafe.  If you can help out at one of the markets, please email Connie at c.aldersonblench@gmail.com

David Gasson offered to set up the tables and chairs and to put them away at the end.

Re publicity:  Anne-Marie offered to publicise the market in The Messenger. Liz Fox is arranging for a monthly item to appear in the Battle Gazette. Connie’s mother Katrina offered to produce some flyers to leave at other markets, etc.

The stallholders have set up a WhatsApp group so will organise themselves.

I will continue as Treasurer.

We will have the following stallholders at the March market:

  • Jo Hughes:  Meat
  • Judy Asselton:  Cakes & Preserves
  • Stella & Chris:  Pies
  • Lighthouse Bakery
  • Karon:  Eggs
  • The stallholders hope to find someone to bring Veg
  • The Community Table – available to anyone who wants to publicise a local event or business

… and the stallholders hope to find someone to bring Veg.

Chris Wing

 

01580 881232

Phone box opposite the Village Hall

Banksy was here

We have agreed to buy the phone box from BT for £1. 

Although it won’t have a phone line in it, it will apparently have a power supply, with power continuing to be supplied by BT at their expense (perhaps to assuage their guilt about removing the phone itself).  So potential uses could include those requiring a modest amount of power. 

Although there has been a general consensus that it should be retained, there has only been a small a response regarding what we should do with it.  The two ideas so far are: fit it out as a “Visitor Information Point”; or move it to Darwell Hole and use it to house the forthcoming defibrillator.  Further ideas still welcome. 

My attention has also been drawn to the propensity of phone boxes to attract advertisements for certain kinds of services.  Obviously it would be wrong to expose Brightlingers to this sort of temptation, although I don’t know how much of a problem this would be in practice. 

Rubbish clearance

Hello fellow Brightlingers

I walk down to the bottom of Brickyard Lane most days with the dog and there is a load of rubbish tipped into the stream. I reported it over 6 months ago, but it’s still there. Someone did tell me though that it may technically be on Darvell land. It is really starting to annoy me, so I have 2 ideas…

  1. does anyone have a contact in the Darvell community to request they come and clear it?
  2. shall we take the JFDI approach? Can I get a 1 or 2 volunteers to join me one weekend to come and clear it ourselves? A couple of us would only take 20 mins but there are a few larger pieces that may need 2 people to lift out of the stream. I am pretty sure it will  all fit in the back of our car and I can drive it to the tip?

Best

Steve (Filands)

 

Combined Health and Social care

This is one of the great current themes of health policy.  In particular, improving the integration of health and social care is one of the ways in which ESCC hopes to make the substantial savings that it needs to make over the next few years.

One of the first outcomes of this in East Sussex is a new service: Health and Social Care Connect (HSCC).  If you, or someone that you care for (formally or informally) has needs health or social care needs, you don’t have to make an either/or decision – is the need for social care or is it a health problem? – you can call the “one-stop shop” helpline number on 0345 60 80 191 (counts as a local landline for charging purposes, including from mobiles). 

Here is the official announcement of the new service.

From Beira to Brightling

FROM BEIRA TO BRIGHTLING.  A play about a man, Alfred Lawley, who lived at Socknersh Manor in the late 180os into 1900s.  He was an engineer and pioneer and was involved in laying the railways in Africa in the most atrocious conditions and, on the way,  meeting up with many famous people from our history.  Some of you may remember the huge dugout which used to lie in the ditch just below The Water Tower and Lake Cottage and was eventually removed in the 1980s to a museum.  Mr. Lawley brought that back in the early 1900s, but it fell off the carriage on the way down to Socknersh and remained there….

Come and listen to the play (complete with some appropriate sound effects!) in Brightling church on Saturday 17th June 2017 starting at 7 p.m.  £14 to include a pre-dinner drink in the church and then a themed supper in the village hall.

If you want to find out more or make an early reservation (remember our last play sold out and some people were turned away) phone Jane or Geoffrey Beard 01424 the 838352thewatertowerbrightling@gmail.com