Month: July 2017
Why did Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee block the proposal to refer the closure of our beds to the Secretary of State? The idea that the Chair, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson (left), was settling an old score with Claire Wright makes a nice story but overlooks the concerted Conservative position. The collusion between Randall Johnson and Rufus Gilbert – who rushed to propose a ‘no referral’ motion before Claire could move her motion to refer -was obvious to all, as was her keenness to persuade her colleagues not to have a recorded vote.
Equally striking, however, is that only one out of 12 Tories on the Committee – Honiton’s Phil Twiss – voted against Gilbert’s motion. The other 7 Tories who voted were all for allowing the beds to be closed; 2 who had reservations abstained; 2 more were (diplomatically?) absent. Whipping is not allowed on Scrutiny committees, but this gives a strong impression of a Tory consensus. Members who were uncertain of their support were unwilling to defy it beyond abstention. Twiss was obviously a special case, as the one committee member whose hospital will lose its beds.
Clearly the Conservative Group on DCC gave their East Devon members the main role in dealing with the Eastern Locality hospital beds issue when in May (with its return to Scrutiny looming) they made Randall Johnson chair and nominated two Exmouth members, Jeff Trail and Richard Scott, as well as Twiss as members of the Health Scrutiny Committee. With East Devon Tory leader, Paul Diviani, representing Devon’s district councils, 5 of its Tory members were from East Devon and only 7 from the other five-sixths of the Tory group.
East Devon Tories on the committee certainly lived up to their role on Tuesday. All except Trail voted, making half of all Tory votes cast on the committee and 3 out of 7 on the pro-CCG side. In contrast, only 4 of the 7 Tories from elsewhere in the county cast a vote on this crucial issue: East Devon’s Tories may have convinced themselves, but not their colleagues.
Paul Diviani spills the beans
With Randall Johnson preoccupied with timekeeping (except when the CCG were speaking), Scott silent and Twiss asking questions, it was left to Diviani (right) to express the Tory rationale. He claimed to speak for Devon district councils as a whole, but has acknowledged that he had consulted none of the others. He was happy to defy his own Council, which has voted to keep hospital beds, and spoke for himself – and East Devon Conservatives.
Diviani’s caustic little speech deserves more attention than it has been given.
- He started by saying that those who decide to live in the countryside expect diminished service, and must cut their cloth accordingly in current times – forgetting that many have lived here all their lives, or moved here long before the present Tory government arrived to savage the NHS.
- ‘Costs will always rise without innovation’, Diviani continued, forgetting that the ‘costs’ of community hospitals are rising particularly because of the Tory innovation which gave them over to NHS Property Services and its ‘market rents’.
- ‘Local decisions should be made locally’, he averred, overlooking the fact that Sustainability and Transformation Plans, Success Regimes and NHS property sales are all national initiatives forced on the local NHS – while NEW Devon CCG is so unrepresentative even of local doctors that only full-time managers (Sonja Manton and Rob Sainsbury) are allowed to present its case in public while its ‘practitioner’ figurehead, Dr Tim Burke, hides in a corner.
When, however, Diviani warned that ‘attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive’, he expressed the truth of the situation. The closure of community hospitals results from the determined policies of the Conservative Government. (Referral would have served the purposes of delaying permanent closures, embarrassing the Government and forcing its Independent Reconfiguration Panel to give an assessment of the issue.)
East Devon Tories are the Government’s faithful servants. ‘Don’t trust East Devon Tories’ over the hospitals, I warned during the County elections. How right have I been proved.
The Post Office would move to WHSmith Local, 19 Harbour Road. Opening hours would be the same except on Saturday, when it would be open until 5.30 pm. Some services would also be available at the retail counter, including on Sundays from 7 am to 4 pm. Currently, wheelchair access is an issue, but ‘a permanent ramp with handrails would be installed’ – this needs doing before the switch – and ‘internally, there would be a hearing loop and space for a wheelchair’.
The better opening hours are an advantage but parking will be a problem: the consultation document points people to the pay & display on the seafront, but I think people will be reluctant to pay while popping in to the Post Office. The lack of on-street parking is likely to lead to more cars on the double yellow lines on Harbour Road.
There is also a downside for the town centre: I know when I park on-street to go to the current PO, I’m more likely to pop into shops in Queen Street, Fore Street and Cross Street. Harbour Road isn’t far from these, but if you’re parking on double yellows to go into the PO, you won’t be going – uphill – to the town centre shops.
What do you think? You can access the proposals HERE, where it also tells you how to send your views to the consultation, which you must do by 15 September. Remember Costcutter is closing and it’s vital that we keep a PO in Seaton town centre.
- You can watch the meeting at https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/293466.
What this means
- The 7 councillors who voted NOT to refer the decision were all Conservatives: Sara Randall Johnson (Broadclyst), Richard Scott (Exmouth), Rufus Gilbert, Sylvia Russell, Paul Crabb and Ron Peart. John Berry and Jeremy Yabsley (both also Conservative) abstained.
- The 6 councillors who voted against this motion, i.e. to refer the decision, were Claire Wright (Otter Valley, Independent), Brian Greenslade and Nick Way (Liberal Democrat), Hilary Ackland and Carol Whitton (Labour) and Phil Twiss (Honiton, Conservative).
By 7 votes (all Conservative) to 6 (2 Liberal Democrats, 2 Labour, 1 Conservative and Independent, Claire Wright), Devon County Council's Health Scrutiny Committee today sealed the fate of the beds in the two hospitals (and Okehampton) by voting not to refer the closure of beds to the Secretary of State for Health.
Read the report here by Claire Wright. The Council’s Tory majority also declined to discuss motions asking for the resignation of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, and on education funding – both will be sent to the Council’s Cabinet for discussion before coming back to the Council in October (!).
More people are coming on the bus to County Hall, Exeter, for next Tuesday, 25th, crucial Health Scrutiny Committee meeting, but there are still places left and we need to show councillors that the public are there and concerned about the issue. Please join us! (Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to reserve a seat on the bus – will cost £9-£10 return, depending on numbers.)
This meeting will finally decide whether to refer the hospital bed closures in Seaton and Honiton to the Secretary of State for Health. I will be speaking along with others from our area. We will be gathering to protest outside County Hall at 1 pm before the meeting at 2.15, which we will be observing.
A packed meeting of local residents, councillors and Highways officials, with Cllr Stuart Hughes (Devon Cabinet member for Highways) and chaired by Neil Parish MP, this morning in Colyford Memorial Hall (right with mock crossing), heard that the County Council has agreed to install a zebra crossing on the A3052 before April next year. The Council has also offered to install a ‘pedestrian refuge’ (island) at the bottom of Seaton Down Hill, Seaton.
These are significant successes for the dogged campaigns waged by the Speedwatch teams in the two areas. Council officials had reservations about residents’ more comprehensive proposals for traffic calming all along the A3052 in Colyford. The Council was open to ‘gateways’ and vehicle-activated signs (VAS), providing funding can be found (my Locality Budget for Seaton and Colyton could help), but residents will certainly continue to explore more ambitious options.
Council officials also undertook to ‘look again’ at extending the 40 limit on the Harepath Hill section of the A3052 to past the Tower junction, with an implied extension to Seaton Down Hill itself. Neil Parish MP, who played an admirable role in pinning down the issues, undertook to meet again in February 2018 to review progress in the two areas.