East Devon Conservatives
Local Conservative councillors were scared to have their individual votes on community hospital closures recorded at yesterday’s County Council meeting
The big question about why the Tories were so determined to add ‘where appropriate‘ to my amendment that the County Council should work to save ALL Devon’s community hospitals is: Which hospital do they NOT think it is appropriate to keep as a community health and wellbeing centre?
I mentioned in my speech that East Devon councillors like Phil Twiss (Honiton) and Ian Hall (Axminster) had made it clear that their hospitals should be kept. And not one councillor popped up to make it clear that, yes, their hospital was the exception.
Tory leader John Hart told me that Teignmouth was a case, because the CCG was funding a new health centre there. But Teignmouth people are up in arms about the closure of their hospital and Teignmouth councillor Sylvia Russell was certainly not volunteering to support its closure.
Yet as far as I know all these councillors, and East Devon Conservatives like Stuart Hughes (Sidmouth), Richard Scott and Jeff Trail (Exmouth), Sara Randall Johnson and Ray Bloxham (Exmouth), voted to add the ‘where appropriate’ get-out (which presumably they think may be used for someone else’s hospital).
I say ‘as far as I know’ because the Tories also voted not to have their votes recorded on my amendment. As far as I know, all those mentioned also voted for this suppression of information, too! If I have inadvertently maligned anyone, in the absence of this information being recorded, please let me know.
The only Conservative who did not support the get-out was, as I said in my last post, Dartmouth councillor Jonathan Hawkins, who spoke movingly about the plight of his community since their hospital was closed.
Desperate Conservatives advertise for candidates on Facebook, as they try to cling to control of East Devon in 2019
Conservatives control our County and District councils and both parliamentary seats in East Devon, but their members are so thin on the ground that (not withstanding the well-known pitfalls of social media) they are trawling Facebook for candidates to replace councillors who retire next year. The big problem with their pitch is that if you really ‘want to stand up for your local community and the interests of local residents’, you’re going to come bang up against how the Tory party works both at local and national level.
2019 looks likely to be the year when the Conservatives finally lose control, as the local party (discredited by its failure to defend community hospital beds) is further undermined by the mess the national party has made of Brexit (due to take place 6 weeks before the district elections). Lots of people who really want to represent their local communities will be standing as Independents, so as not not to have their hands tied by a party machine.
I have written to @CllrIanThomas, incoming EDDC leader, for assurances on health services and hospitals, after Conservative amendment leaves East Devon community hospitals vulnerable to closure
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.
In her election leaflet, the official Conservative candidate for Seaton and Colyton, Helen Parr, confirms her support for the East Devon Tory policy of accepting ‘bed-less hospitals’. Mrs Parr acknowledges that the decision to close in-patient services at Seaton Hospital is ‘a huge blow for the town and wider area’. But her leaflet adds, ‘Helen will do everything possible to get the best role for Seaton hospital for the future’, and will insist that the CCG are ‘delivering the services they are promising before any beds are closed’. So NOT supporting the Town Council’s fight to STOP the bed closures. You have been warned.
In a shock development, East Devon Conservatives have issued a statement which has appeared on Councillor Ian Hall’s Facebook page. They have already given up the fight against the removal of beds from Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton which the CCG has decided.