The ‘Health Scrutiny Committee’ which didn’t scrutinise

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Fallout is growing from yesterday’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee at Devon County Council, which decided yesterday by 7 votes to 6, with 2 abstentions and 2 members absent, not to refer the closure of 71 beds in Seaton, Honiton, Okehampton and Whipton (Exeter) community hospitals to the Secretary of State. The vote means that the beds will permanently close in September and October.
‘A stitch-up’
This was the phrase most commonly heard among those who witnessed this meeting, including many  protestors (right).
Cllr Claire Wright (Independent, below) had prepared a detailed motion to refer the closures and had submitted it in writing to the Chair, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson (Conservative), before the meeting. However when debate began, Randall Johnson chose not to call her to speak but instead called fellow Conservative Cllr Rufus Gilbert who immediately proposed a motion NOT to refer, which was quickly seconded by Cllr Sylvia Russell.
claireThis blatant manoeuvre by the Chair meant that the committee never considered point by point, as Claire’s motion would have required it to, the 14 questions on which it had asked the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to satisfy it. The committee blocked a referral – without discussing most of the careful objections which local councillors, EDDC and residents have raised.
We are considering a formal complaint about the way the meeting was handled.

What this means 

This meeting was the last constitutional means to overturn the CCG’s unjust treatment of Honiton and Okehampton, whose hospitals were excluded from the consultation options, and Seaton, whose beds have been closed using misleading data, leaving the whole Axe Valley without community beds. The Scrutiny Committee should have challenged these failures of the CCG but the Tories have chosen to condone them.
Now we must worry about what happens to hospital buildings without beds. Seaton hospital was paid for by the local community but the Government has handed it (like all the community hospitals) over to NHS Property Services and is forcing the CCG to pay them a so-called “market rent” for space. This was one of the reasons why the CCG wanted to remove so many beds and it will also make them reluctant to develop out-patient services in the hospital.
The danger is that the CCG, in its rush to save money, will simply centralise hospital services in Exeter. This is incredibly bad for communities like ours which are such a distance from the RD&E. Yesterday’s bad decision will only lead to new issues which the whole of the Axe Valley will have to face shortly.’
Roll of shame
  • 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.
In favour of referring the decision
  • 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).
Six public speakers, Cllr Roger Giles (Chair of East Devon’s Scrutiny Committee), Paul Arnott (Colyton), Cllr Jan Goffey (Mayor of Okehampton), Cllr Mike Allen, Bob Sturtivant and Stephen Craddock (Honiton), spoke eloquently against the closures for two and a half minutes each. County Councillor Ian Hall (Axminster) and I also addressed the committee for five minutes each.

16 thoughts on “The ‘Health Scrutiny Committee’ which didn’t scrutinise

    Kenneth Gorf said:
    July 26, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Please keep fighting.


    Paul F said:
    July 26, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    This appears at first sight to be the SECOND potential constitutional irregularity by the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee.

    At the previous meeting a motion had been proposed and seconded, but the Chair refused to put it to the vote.

    At this meeting, a motion had been formally presented, and she refused to let the proposer propose it in the meeting.

    That said, calling it “a stitch-up” is grossly unfair. It is not a “stitch up” – it is “perverting the cause of democracy”.

    Democracy didn’t just happen – people had to fight (and in many cases die) to achieve it. And the Tories are so power-hungry, so desperate to avoid any form of embarrassment – and so lacking in any sort of ethical values – that they will trash it simply to avoid a local Tory council embarrassing a Tory government.

    If this sort of “democracy” is what the Tory Party stands for – avoiding debate, perverting due process so that the Chair can have her own way and be a despotic autocrat of the scrutiny committee – then shame on the lot of them. If this is what Britain has become – what the Tories have driven us to – completely lacing in the characteristics I consider to define Brtishness – then I am ashamed to be British.

    Yes, what is happening to the NHS is a disgrace – but what is happening to democracy in order to enable it is a tragedy.


    Teresa Gazzard said:
    July 26, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    I would like to know if any of our fellow peoples questions were even read let alone answered. Looks like they never gave it any consideration as already had their orders to reject! Can we appeal, protest and be heard properly!!
    Regards 😁


      Martin Shaw responded:
      July 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

      The Committee didn’t do a point by point evaluation of the issues, which is what they should have done. A proper procedure was not followed. This is why I will be complaining. I will keep people posted on where this goes.


        Teresa Gazzard said:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:22 am

        Thankyou Mr Shaw for your reply, look forward to some answers soon 👍🙏


        Paul F said:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:29 am

        I am not sure that there are explicit rules which insist that the committee does a blow-by-blow evaluation (though with something of this importance they should have done so) – so it will be difficult to get a complaint upheld on that basis.

        You could try for “bringing the council into disrepute” by failing to act as a scrutiny committee should, but that will undoubtedly fail because it is subjective and Tories have a majority and will dismiss it.

        The only basis I can see for a complaint is if constitutional rules were not followed. If the Chair rode roughshod over the constitution, then whether this happened will be black & white and therefore much harder to sweep under the carpet.

        For the future, it might be beneficial to be fully conversant with the constitution so that you can make a point-of-order complaint about it not being followed during the meeting.


        Martin Shaw responded:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:31 am

        I think ‘scrutiny’ means careful examination, which implies looking at the detail not just making a sweeping judgement. So I’m not giving up on that one. But bringing the Council into disrepute is a good point.


        Paul F said:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:40 am

        This definition is certainly a common-sense one, however unfortunately common-sense is not grounds for a formal complaint. If you want a complaint to stick, then you have to show it was against the law / rules.

        However blatantly perverting democracy is definitely going to bring the council into disrepute, so that is worth a punt in order to make a point even if it is subjective and will be voted down.

        But you can do that in conjunction with a complaint about being unconstitutional, because being unconstitutional also brings the council into disrepute.


        Teresa Gazzard said:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:45 am

        As the So say Tories have the last say, can they be held accountable for not given a reason for dismissing the question in motion? We need a answer to why they decided to dismiss and be able to argue our rights as people!!


        Paul F said:
        July 27, 2017 at 7:55 am

        This is unfortunately the state of democracy today.

        1. Powers-that-be have redefined “Democracy” to be about voting once every 5 years, not about the people having their say at other times.

        2. You could try a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, but my own experience is that even Ombudsmen are failing to uphold democracy these days (being more on the side of powers-that-be than on the side of the citizen trying the route of last resort).

        In my experience – and I have tried hard on several different issues – these days it is IMPOSSIBLE to get accountability, and without accountability you don’t get transparency either, and without those you don’t have democracy.

        3. It is now acceptable to hijack democracy in order to force your own agenda through, and powers-that-be do it in the knowledge that they can get away with it.


        Teresa Gazzard said:
        July 27, 2017 at 1:29 pm

        Very sad in that case! Should we all just give up, if our fight is not going to be listened too. What about our countries Press, surely we can cause some chaos here. Play them at their own games!!


    dorjela said:
    July 27, 2017 at 11:05 am

    How do you get a ‘no confidence’ vote raised & preferably passed against the committee?
    A Cotterall


    […] Seaton councillor, Cllr Martin Shaw, wrote an excellent account of the meeting here – […]


    Vigil at Honiton Community Hospital | Susie Bond said:
    August 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    […] Among those present this morning was Cllr Martin Shaw (county councillor for Seaton and Colyton) who spoke about his grave concerns for health provision. He had also addressed Devon County Council’s Scrutiny Committee meeting in July ( […]


    […] Among those present this morning was Cllr Martin Shaw (county councillor for Seaton and Colyton) who spoke about his grave concerns for health provision. He had also addressed Devon County Council’s Scrutiny Committee meeting in July ( […]


    […] Tory county councillors including the chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee, Sara Randall Johnson, the Tory majority defeated Claire’s proposal to refer the beds closures to the Secretary of State’s independent panel, the last chance to save the beds. Later, in […]


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