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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Prince William worries about the planet but it’s jellied eels that terrify him

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christopher stevens prince william worries about the planet but its jellied eels that terrify him

Prince William: A Planet For Us All

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In The Face Of Terror

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Shellfish and the Duke of Cambridge don’t get along. He turned a delicate shade of green on a Welsh beach at the sight of mussels, in his campaigning documentary, A Planet For Us All (ITV).

An invitation to dive for scallops provoked mild panic at the thought of having to wear a wetsuit.

But that was nothing compared to his reaction to the words ‘Billingsgate fish market’.

The Prince was open about how becoming a dad has tempered his former love of parties. ‘Fatherhood has given me a new sense of purpose,’ he said. He is pictured at the Mkomazi National Park, Tanzania in 2018

The Prince was open about how becoming a dad has tempered his former love of parties. ‘Fatherhood has given me a new sense of purpose,’ he said. He is pictured at the Mkomazi National Park, Tanzania in 2018

His Royal Highness practically came out in hives at the thought of the place on Canary Wharf in the East End. 

He once ate ‘jellified eel’ there at 5am while suffering from a hangover, he told a Scottish fisherman. 

‘I was quite a bit younger,’ he pleaded in mitigation. The implication was that this was a royal duty rather than drunken initiation rite.

But Prince William did his work experience in the City of London when he was 22, in 2005. Financial traders have been known to finish off an all-night bar crawl with breakfast at the fish market.

Is this, perhaps, how the jellied eel stand came briefly to be By Royal Appointment?

The Prince was open about how becoming a dad has tempered his former love of parties.  

An invitation to dive for scallops provoked mild panic at the thought of having to wear a wetsuit. But that was nothing compared to his reaction to the words ‘Billingsgate fish market’

An invitation to dive for scallops provoked mild panic at the thought of having to wear a wetsuit. But that was nothing compared to his reaction to the words ‘Billingsgate fish market’

‘Fatherhood has given me a new sense of purpose,’ he said. ‘Your outlook does change.’

In a documentary two years in the making, which was still being tweaked in the editing suite until last week, William steered a careful course. He was anxious to avoid taking an overtly political stance while making sure his statements avoided empty jargon or blandness. 

The closest he came to controversy was an admiring namecheck for eco-activist Greta Thunberg.

There wasn’t the slightest reference to his brother Harry — no mention when he talked about his childhood memories or his love of Africa. 

But his sibling’s recent video statements on the American elections and ‘structural racism’ must have been on William’s mind, as an example of the sort of programme he didn’t want to make.

Instead, he cleverly let schoolchildren do much of his talking for him. Ten-year-old Liverpudlian Elliott spoke with upbeat energy about how he and his friends inspired their whole school to plant wildflowers and encourage insect life in the inner city.

William visited them at All Saints Catholic Primary School where pupils were putting the finishing touches to an insect haven they called Bugingham Palace. 

The Duke planted a Union flag on the roof and revealed that, if he could be an insect, he’d be a millipede, so he could have lots of shoes . . . with, presumably, an army of busy bees to keep them polished.

The closest he came to controversy was an admiring namecheck for eco-activist Greta Thunberg

The closest he came to controversy was an admiring namecheck for eco-activist Greta Thunberg

At moments, William’s message veered towards the apocalyptic, as he contemplated the disappearance of East Anglia or the disruption of water supplies for a billion people owing to climate change. 

Mostly, though, the tone was light and hopeful — something that could never be said of In The Face Of Terror (BBC2), the first of a three-part portrait of British and American families whose adult children were murdered by Isis. 

The documentary opened with the saddest of images, in the snow of New Hampshire, as parents John and Diane Foley prepared to leave the home they had shared with journalist son, Jim.

He was held captive in Syria and tortured, before being executed by Mohammed Emwazi, the psychotic Londoner known as ‘Jihadi John’. Foley’s beheading was filmed and released as Isis propaganda.

The account of his suffering, described by freed captive Pierre Torres, was appallingly bleak. So was the emotional despair of the parents of Kayla Mueller and the brother of David Haines, humanitarian workers who were also murdered.

Their accounts made for deeply worthwhile but tough viewing.

One-track mind of the night: The crudely titled Me, My Brother And Our Balls (BBC1) looked at infertility. Over on C4, Rupert Everett starred as a porn producer in the explicit Adult Material. What happened to ‘No sex please, we’re British’? 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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London firm is paid up to £7,000 A DAY by taxpayer to run failing NHS Test and Trace

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london firm is paid up to 7000 a day by taxpayer to run failing nhs test and trace

Alastair Flanagan’s journey to work takes him from a rambling farmhouse near the Chiltern Hills to a state-of-the-art office block overlooking a garden square in London’s Marylebone.

The striking building is UK headquarters of the Boston Consulting Group, one of the world’s most prestigious — not to mention expensive — management consultancy firms. Flanagan is among its most senior partners.

A floppy-haired 60-year-old, originally from southern Africa, he joined the swashbuckling company in 1987 and rose through its besuited ranks to achieve considerable prosperity.

This year, Boston Consulting Group signed a £10 million deal to help the Government set up and run its Covid test-and-trace system. Under that deal, the firm agreed to provide 40 consultants to work on the project

This year, Boston Consulting Group signed a £10 million deal to help the Government set up and run its Covid test-and-trace system. Under that deal, the firm agreed to provide 40 consultants to work on the project

Home is a Grade II-listed house in unspoilt countryside near the commuter town of Thame, which he bought for £2.1 million in 2010. It has walled gardens, a tennis court, stables and a competition-size equestrian arena.

His wife, Kate, farms sheep on their rolling acres and is a big cheese in the South Oxfordshire Hunt’s pony club. Various family members — they have four privately educated children aged between 22 and 27 — ski, shoot, row, collect vintage cars, play polo and compete at dressage and showjumping. 

Financing expensive hobbies is a perk of the job when you are a Master of the Universe. And Boston Consulting, or BCG, employs some of the fattest cats in corporate Britain.

Accounts filed at Companies House show that its 966 UK employees earned more than £110 million in the year to March, equating to an average salary of £114,237. Each of its 75 partners trousered £943,687.

Those top earners include the Oxford-educated Flanagan, who according to his CV is an expert in ‘strategy’ and ‘transformation’. And from BCG’s point of view, he does plenty to justify his exorbitant remuneration. Clients pay the firm up to about £10,000 a day to secure his services on a project.

But who are these deep-pocketed clients? And what persuades them to pay such very high fees?

Well, recently, the people paying for Alastair Flanagan’s expertise have included… me and you.

A floppy-haired 60-year-old, originally from southern Africa, he joined the swashbuckling company in 1987 and rose through its besuited ranks to achieve considerable prosperity

A floppy-haired 60-year-old, originally from southern Africa, he joined the swashbuckling company in 1987 and rose through its besuited ranks to achieve considerable prosperity

This year, Boston Consulting Group signed a £10 million deal to help the Government set up and run its Covid test-and-trace system. Under that deal, the firm agreed to provide 40 consultants to work on the project.

Documents outlining the arrangement (which initially ran from the end of April to late August but has since been extended, at extra cost) were obtained by Sky News last week. And they make staggering reading.

It has emerged that the initial £10 million fee was determined by the so-called ‘day rates’ of the BCG staff who worked on it. The firm quoted from £2,400 a day for each of its junior staff to £7,360 a day for their senior colleagues.

This was, it has been claimed with a straight face, a generous ‘discount’ from their normal fees, in recognition of the fact that the taxpayer was footing the bill.

Even so, one five-man team working on a specific area of the system has been earning £25,000 a day. Two members of that unit commanded the top day rates of £7,360, while the remaining three received a comparatively modest £4,160.

To put that in context, you could buy and import a ton of PPE for roughly the amount this one small BCG team was billing the Governnment every 48 hours.

I gather that several of Boston Consulting’s key individuals were named on paperwork outlining the ‘operating model’ of the project. They include Flanagan, who is head of the firm’s London ‘public sector practice’.

His exact cost is unclear. But the £7,360 day rate that applied to Flanagan and his senior peers was then reduced by a further proportion, believed to be between 10 and 15 per cent, under an extra ‘Covid discount’ agreed with the Department of Health and Social Care before bills were sent out.

Even so, taxpayers have effectively been obliged to pay more than £30,000 a week for these elite management consutants.

That is the equivalent to an annual salary of more than £1.5 million. In other words, hiring the likes of Alastair Flanagan has cost the British public about ten times the annual salary of the Prime Minister and 50 times that of many healthcare workers, to contribute to our coronavirus response.

No wonder a host of MPs have been kicking up a fuss.

‘Truly shocking’ was the verdict of Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth. ‘Shambolic,’ added Labour MP Toby Perkins, who raised the payments to BCG in a Commons debate. 

‘Just imagine how far that money would go if it were given to local authorities,’ commented Munira Wilson, for the Lib Dems. ‘They are paying these consultants the weekly equivalent of what a nurse earns in a year.’

It should be emphasised that the cash being shelled out under this particular deal did not flow directly from public coffers into the well-tailored pockets of Flanagan and his 39 or so colleagues. It was instead paid to BCG, which has operating costs and other overheads to meet before it can turn its annual profit of £97 million.

Flanagan’s personal involvement in the project is understood to have been limited to a few days, not the entire eight weeks.

Be that as it may, the amount being splurged on this one management consulting contract lays bare a wider controversy.

For behind the scenes, the coronavirus crisis has led to unprecedented amounts of taxpayers’ cash being funnelled to blue-chip firms and their well-heeled partners.

Take the test-and-trace system. BCG is not the only company cashing in. In recent months, Deloitte — one of the ‘Big Four’ professional services firms (the others are KPMG, PwC and Ernst & Young or EY) — has had as many as 1,114 of its consultants working on the system at any one time. Each has been receiving a reported day rate of up to £2,360.

Another firm, McKinsey, which once employed Dido Harding, the Tory peer in charge of test-and-trace, was given £560,000 to design the ‘vision, purpose and narrative’ of the system. Ernst & Young nabbed two £400,000 contracts to manage publicity around it.

Meanwhile, staff manning call centres and testing facilities are being supplied by the likes of Mitie, G4S and Serco, another raft of private firms whose lucrative contracts are pushing the overall cost of test-and-trace up to £12 billion.

For that sort of money, we surely have a right to expect it to be, as Boris Johnson promised in May, ‘world-beating’. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

Last week, the Government’s own scientific advisers said the system was having only a ‘marginal impact’ on reducing the spread of Covid, with ‘relatively low levels of engagement’, ‘testing delays’ and ‘poor rates of adherence with self-isolation’.

It emerged on Thursday that just 15 per cent of people are getting test results back within 24 hours, while fewer than six in ten of those who test positive for Covid-19 are being reached by tracers — well below the 80 per cent target.

Another firm, McKinsey, which once employed Dido Harding, the Tory peer in charge of test-and-trace, above, was given £560,000 to design the ¿vision, purpose and narrative¿ of the system. Ernst & Young nabbed two £400,000 contracts to manage publicity around it

Another firm, McKinsey, which once employed Dido Harding, the Tory peer in charge of test-and-trace, above, was given £560,000 to design the ‘vision, purpose and narrative’ of the system. Ernst & Young nabbed two £400,000 contracts to manage publicity around it

The Prime Minister confessed that ‘we do need to improve’ the system. Labour branded it a ‘dangerous failure’.

This month, it emerged that 16,000 Covid cases had vanished from test-and-trace because of a ‘technical error’ caused by part of the system being run on an antiquated version of Microsoft Excel.

It did not escape critics that this shambles was something the consultants failed to deal with.

‘I would like to know what these consultants are doing all day and why we are paying them,’ says Labour’s Toby Perkins.

‘If the system they created can be brought to its knees by an Excel spreadsheet reaching the end of its capacity, then it doesn’t look like the people earning such huge amounts have created something very sophisticated.’

The Mail would also like to know what tangible benefit the £7,350-a-day consultants have brought the taxpayer. So we asked the Deparment of Health. They had yet to formally respond by last night.

Test-and-trace is not the only area in which gargantuan sums are being funnelled to highly paid consultants. Figures compiled by Tussell, a research group that monitors public contracts, show that since the start of the crisis, the Government has awarded at least 202 consulting contracts, worth almost £204 million in total.

Some might regard this as a clattering gravy train. And that figure is likely to grow substantially in the coming months: although the law states that details of all contracts must be made public within 30 days, many are not being announced for months.

For example, it was only revealed this week that in April and June, the Department of Health and Social Care signed two deals with the polling company Ipsos Mori to provide ‘logistic support’ to some research studies. The deals cost £7 million and £27 million.

Tussell’s records show that the consulting giant PwC has picked up at least 20 contracts worth £24 million, including a £3 million deal to provide financial analysis to the Cabinet Office and a £1.4 million contract from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to run a £200 million fund to distribute money to cash-strapped charities. PA Consulting received £12 million to help design and build ventilators.

McKinsey has 16 contracts worth £3.8 million, including a £1.3 million deal to provide a ‘troubleshooting team’ to fix problems with the Government’s Covid ‘dashboard’ and £307,000 to model scenarios for the Department of Health showing how the pandemic will probably develop in autumn and winter, a period for which it has so far seemed very underprepared.

KPMG trousered £1 million for three months’ work on the Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate. An advertising agency called MullenLowe received £16 million for ‘campaign services’, while another, 23red, was given £10 million for the same thing.

Boston Consulting has signed at least six lucrative agreements besides its test-and-trace contract, including a £4.5 million deal to advise the Department for International Development on ‘economic support’, £458,000 to advise the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) on seeking ‘clarity on the Covid-19 situation across the Defra portfolio’, and £427,000 to advise Defra on how to provide food to vulnerable people.

Meg Hillier, chair of Parliament’s public accounts committee, says she is shocked by the cost of many such deals and has launched an inquiry into the Government’s use of consultants. ‘What on earth are they doing?’ she asked. ‘It is a very steep increase in a very short space of time. You cannot just tear up the rules and dish out taxpayers’ money in this way.’

Among the issues her committee will look at is how the Coronavirus Act allowed government departments to award highly lucrative contracts without putting them out to competitive tender. At first, this was seen as a legitimate way to ensure essential work could be carried out at a time of national emergency. But Hillier believes many were poorly drawn up and have since been badly managed.

Ugly headlines have also been generated by deals won by firms with links to senior government figures. For example, Public First, a PR firm, landed an £840,000 contract from the Cabinet Office to run focus groups. The firm is run by close associates of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove.

Hillier and others are further irked that many of the consulting deals contain no penalties for firms that make a mess of their jobs. Oddly, the junior health minister Helen Whately, whose department has handed out many such contracts, tried to justify this state of affairs by telling Parliament that ‘contractual penalties are often unenforceable under English law’.

In its defence, the consulting industry argues that firms such as BCG have played a key role in helping the authorities respond to a national emergency. ‘Government is dealing with an unprecedented volume of workload and major upheaval due to Covid-19 and using external resources has enabled them to work quickly and with intensity in many areas,’ is how the Management Consultancies Association puts it.

Michael Gove, asked to defend the £7,360 day rates charged by BCG, said ‘it is absolutely vital that we have all the expertise required from the private and the public sector in order to improve testing’, adding: ‘We need to reduce our spend on consultants overall, but in the meantime we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we protect the NHS.’

The Department of Health argues that the test-and-trace system is the largest in Europe, and says we are testing more people per capita than any comparable nation. They add: ‘Over one million people who might otherwise have been unknowingly at risk of spreading coronavirus have been contacted.’

Yet even before Covid struck, the industry appeared to be wrapping endless tentacles around the government. Overall, government spending on consultancy firms rose from £316 million to £425 million, and then to £459 million in the three years that predated the crisis, with Deloitte alone hoovering up some £150 million each year. Spending on consultants by the Home Office was up by £51 million between 2018 and early 2020, an increase of 788 per cent.

Some say this bonanza reflects the Johnson Government’s distrust of the Civil Service. Rather than relying on Whitehall to improve public services, they are leaning on the private sector. But even within his administration the spending has caused concern.

Last month, in a leaked letter to senior civil servants, Tory Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew argued that an ‘unacceptable’ reliance on management consultants has ‘infantilised’ Whitehall and deprived ‘our brightest [public servants] of opportunities to work on some of the most challenging, fulfilling and crunchy issues’.

Management consultants are helping to run entire ministries. In 2017, for example, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy appointed Stuart Quickenden to serve as a non-executive member of its board of directors.

Today, on its website, the Department reveals that Mr Quickenden’s day job is ‘managing partner leading the Boston Consulting Group in the UK and Ireland’.

And his particular area of expertise? He is apparently a dab hand at ‘cost reduction’.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Sir Rod Stewart adds a skate ramp, indoor swimming pool and trampoline to his £4.7million mansion

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Gladrags: Sir Rod with wife Penny and sons Alastair, 14, and Aiden, 9

Gladrags: Sir Rod with wife Penny and sons Alastair, 14, and Aiden, 9

Given his love of a kickabout, it’s no surprise he’s built a pitch.

But judging by Rod Stewart’s £4.7million mansion, football is far from the only sport on his mind.

Not only does it have a croquet lawn, but the singer has added an indoor pool, a trampoline and a skate ramp.

Aerial photos show his Grade II listed 18th-century Essex mansion after years of renovations and construction.

Sir Rod, 75, and wife Penny Lancaster, 49, finally have their dream home which boasts ten bedrooms and sits on a sprawling 46 acres of land. Durrington House, near Harlow, has impressive facilities such as four self-contained cottages, a walled garden, croquet lawn, pavilion and clock tower.

Sir Rod and his family moved into the property in 2016, three years after they bought it for £4.65million, and have been undertaking extensive remodelling ever since.

The couple’s sons Alastair, 14, and Aiden, nine, will be entertained thanks to the trampoline and 50ft indoor pool.

Sir Rod was given planning permission for the pool at the mansion in 2017 after Alastair showed a keen interest in swimming. The pool house also has changing facilities, a spa pool, bar and dining area.

In 2016 the Celtic FC fan was granted permission to build the football pitch but his request to have it floodlit was denied on the grounds that it could cause light pollution.

Photos show the pitch, complete with the Glasgow team’s flag, as well as the couple’s immaculate expanse of lawn with topiary and statues.

There is also a large ornamental lake at the front of the property and an ornamental pond in the walled garden at the rear.

In July the couple won planning permission to set four ancient Greek-inspired statues into the four pillars of a classical portico to be built overlooking the pond.

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They must apply for planning permission for any alterations to the property because the house is Grade II listed.

Plans to dig up an existing historic walled garden and erect decking over the pond were vetoed so its banks can remain in a ‘more naturalised state’. Sir Rod and Miss Lancaster, who split their time between Durrington House and their property in Florida, shared a number of photos from inside the Essex mansion during lockdown.

Miss Lancaster said in August: ‘We always consider ourselves extremely lucky with this whole lockdown having a bigger property and land where we could stretch and get exercise.’

Sir Rod sold his former Essex property, the six-bedroom Wood House, for £4.1million last year.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks when told to self-isolate, Sage documents reveal

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only one in ten stay at home for two weeks when told to self isolate sage documents reveal

Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks after being told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, Sage documents revealed yesterday.

Of those who were told they had been in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, just 10.9 per cent isolated for the following 14 days.

The alarming figures undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system, which aims to prevent the spread of the virus.

The alarming figures, that just 10.9 per cent would isolate for 14 days, undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system, which aims to prevent the spread of the virus (stock image used)

The alarming figures, that just 10.9 per cent would isolate for 14 days, undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system, which aims to prevent the spread of the virus (stock image used)

And they were released a day after Boris Johnson said he ‘shares people’s frustrations’ with the service and that it needs to improve.

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms, not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside the household, or popping to the shops for food.

The figures were revealed in documents by Sage – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. 

The study, carried out by King’s College London, was discussed at their meeting in September.

Researchers collected data from a sample of 31,000 people between March 2 and August 5. 

Based on answers to an online questionnaire, the team found that only one in ten said they had isolated for two weeks when told to by the Test and Trace scheme. 

This is much lower than the 65 per cent who said they intended to quarantine if they received the alert.

Another reason they gave for leaving their homes was having a dependent child in the house, the survey revealed.

The study also found that 23.9 per cent said they would not share details of their close contacts with the tracing service if they test positive for Covid-19.

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms or not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside (stock image used)

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms or not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside (stock image used)

The main reasons for this were not believing the system was effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus and not knowing if your data would be secure or confidential.

The survey also found over half of the sample could not identify key coronavirus symptoms and that less than one in five said they stayed at home if they developed symptoms.

Dr Michael Head from the University of Southampton said: ‘This highlights a worrying low level of adherence to guidance around self-isolation.’ 

He added that the Government needs to provide ‘practical and financial support to encourage people to stay at home’.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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