Month: November 2018

An inauspicious start for new Scrutiny Committee for the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership

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Who would have known? The previously unaccountable quango, the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership, which dispenses public money but whose board is made up mainly of businessmen, now has a scrutiny committee all of its own, recently established in some haste to meet newly imposed legal requirements. The first meeting took place five days ago, but little seems to have happened, judging from the minutes. There is currently no opportunity for public participation and no webcast.

The committee will have 17 members, with 13 Tories (11 confirmed – two representatives of Conservative-controlled district councils to be named), 3 Labour members (2 from Plymouth and 1 from Devon) and 1 Lib Dem from Somerset. Thus Independent and Green members have been entirely excluded, while there is only minimal opposition representation. The ruling Tories on the two county councils have used their majorities – obtained with less than 50 per cent of the votes in the 2017 election – to collar three quarters of the county seats, in addition to all those from the districts they control.

It’s worth mentioning that the Heart of the South West (geographic Devon and Somerset – but few local residents will recognise it under its marketing name) also has a Joint Committee of the Councils, with 19 members even more unevenly distributed by party (16 Tories, 2 Labour, 1 Lib Dem, no Independents or Greens).

Will all this bureaucracy give a new steer to the LEP, notorious so far for its bias towards the Hinckley new power station (it is even funding a hotel for officials of the foreign companies behind the project to stay in), its neglect of coastal and rural areas, and its fantastical plans for the South West to overtake London in productivity?

Devon swings to Remain, says Channel 4 mega-poll – time for local politicians to catch up

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The biggest poll ever undertaken of attitudes to Brexit estimates that, whereas the majority of voters in 6 out of 8 Devon districts backed Leave in 2016, now the situation is reversed – only 2 out of 8 still have majorities for Brexit.

East Devon still shows a narrow Leave majority, but 4 districts have seen Leave majorities overturned.

LEAVE % 2016 LEAVE % 2018 CHANGE 
East Devon Leave 54.11% 52.24% -1.87%
Exeter REMAIN 44.72% 37.49% -7.23%
Mid Devon Switched to REMAIN 53.34% 47.44% -5.90%
North Devon Switched to REMAIN 57.04% 49.04% -8.00%
South Hams REMAIN 47.15% 43.49% -3.66%
Teignbridge Switched to REMAIN 53.90% 48.61% -5.29%
Torridge Leave 60.83% 53.99% -6.84%
West Devon Switched to REMAIN 53.20% 48.52% -4.68%

 

Seaton Health Matters has constructive meeting with RD&E about health services in the area, and we look forward to working together for the best solutions

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Jack Rowland, Geoff Pook, Dr Mark Welland and I, representing Seaton Area Health Matters, met Professor Em Wilkinson Bryce and Adel Jones of the RD&E at Seaton Hospital yesterday to discuss the future of health provision in the area. All agreed it was a constructive meeting, and we look forward to working closely with the RD&E on plans for health, wellbeing and community activities centred on the Hospital.

One of our next steps will be to have a detailed discussion with colleagues in Axminster, who also met the RD&E recently, to formulate an Axe Valley approach. Notes of the Seaton meeting are being prepared, and once I have these I will make more details available.

Seaton Health Matters website live

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The Seaton Area Health Matters group is pleased to announce that their website is now live and can be accessed:

seatonhealthmatters.co.uk

You can keep up to date with what we are trying to achieve to tackle the top 10 priorities identified earlier this year facing our area in the provision of health, care and wellbeing services. We will also post news that we receive as the result of discussions we are having with the Royal Devon & Exeter Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group as well as news that emanates from Council meetings at Town, District and County level. 

Broadly the challenges involve trying to establish a health hub to extend the number of clinics and services available at the Seaton Community Hospital site and co-ordinating the information to show the range of voluntary groups involved in providing health and wellbeing support in the area.

We welcome input on these important issues and the website enables this to happen.

I’m supporting 3 important local history initiatives – an excellent WWI exhibition in Colyton, the ‘Living Memories’ project to help dementia patients, and discussions on making Seaton Museum more accessible.

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Colyton's WarIf you’ve time in the next couple of days, head to the church in Colyton for the really excellent First World War centenary exhibition, the product of much loving labour by numerous local volunteers, but very professionally presented and above all a moving evocation of the lives of local people in that terrible episode in our country’s history.

I supported this with my Locality Budget, and I’ve also recently approved an ‘Invest in Devon’ grant for another Colyton-based project, Living Memories, which aims to use documentary films from the mid-twentieth century as a means of aiding the personal memories of older people, especially dementia patients.

This week I also attended a meeting of the committee and trustees (of whom I am one) of the Axe Valley Heritage Association, which began to discussions on how to make the wonderful collections of Seaton Museum more accessible in the future. The Association elected a new chair, Roger Bookman, and I hope its decision to develop a plan for the future of the Museum will be a fitting birthday present for its founder and Curator, Ted Gosling, who reaches 90 in January 2019.

The Museum, to the side of the Town Hall (Gateway), will have its Christmas opening on Thursday 29th November from 2-5 pm and will be open 10-5 the following day.

It seems likely CCG strategy director DID say that there would be no closures of East Devon community hospitals – but in a private meeting for councillors. Over to you again, @NEWDevonCCG: we need a definitive, detailed public statement

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Conservative councillor Phil Twiss has commented on East Devon Watch about my post yesterday. He says:

Happy to clarify that a discussion about provision of services in our local hospitals was raised at the Health Scrutiny Masterclass to improve knowledge (other Scrutiny committees hold similar cross party meetings as required), held on the 4th of October, which is open to all members of DCC. This particular one was attended by a broad cross party selection of Councillors, but not Martin Shaw or colleague Claire Wright who chose not take up the opportunity to hear from a variety of healthcare professionals at the Masterclass. My apologies to your reader for any confusion with the committee held on the same day.

I am delighted that local charity FORCE are now providing some chemotherapy treatments in Honiton, making it easier than travelling in to Exeter, with hopefully other services coming down the track; there is a clear ambition for healthcare hubs here and in the Axe Valley, where there is cross party work taking place to this end.

My reply on the same site:

Since Phil Twiss has clarified where Sonja Manton was speaking, but doesn’t comment on what she said, we must assume that he stands by his statement in the open Council meeting that she had confirmed there would be no closures of community hospitals in East Devon. If so, this is obviously very welcome, but the devil could be in the detail, and it is not good enough for such vital public information to be leaked to councillors in informal meetings. We need a public statement from the CCG, assuring us of the future of Axminster, Honiton, Ottery St. Mary and Seaton hospitals (as well as Okehampton which is part of the wider Eastern Locality).

Twiss’s comment that Claire Wright and I “chose not to take the opportunity” to attend the masterclass barely deserves a reply. However I have been dealing with a very difficult family situation over the last two months and this was one meeting which I had to pass up. I am not, in any case, a member of the Health Scrutiny committee, but since I was elected I have attended almost all its meetings, chiefly to support Claire in fighting for the community hospitals.

If the CCG now accept that the hospitals must stay, this will be a great victory for the campaigns in all the towns over the last few years, and for Claire, the Independent councillors at EDDC, and myself, who have supported local communities while the Conservatives have constantly left the door open for the CCGs to close them “where appropriate”, in the words of their most recent motion at the County Council.’