Thanks for nothing, Pawsey

According to our MP, the proposals to reduce the Urgent Treatment services at St Cross Hospital is just a “tidying up exercise”. That’s what the Telegraph has quoted him as saying, anyway.

Yesterday I went to Coventry and saw the headline in the Coventry version of the Telegraph that should raise concerns for people in Rugby and Coventry: Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures. If more patients from Rugby are going to be going straight to University Hospital, won’t that put even more pressure on the A&E department there?

I was perhaps hoping that our main representative to the Government would be sticking up for the area, trying to retain important front line services, and would be trying to maintain the line he was taking before the election. As I noted some weeks ago, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley came to Rugby to campaign for Mark Pawsey in the campaign, and said that there would be no service removals without a full review, and that he’d seen the plans that would retain emergency care at St Cross.

What proposals did Lansley see? Are they the ones we are seeing now? Because if they are, then he was being disingenuous, and so was our now MP. And if they aren’t, then does this not suggest that the Government are allowing front line service cuts even though they promised none, especially in the NHS?

Not that I expect answers. I had thought that Mark Pawsey had arranged a public meeting in order to represent his constituents. It seems he was more about promoting the views of the Trust.

Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures

Scrapping NHS Direct – more lunacy

No time to discuss the Andy Burnham meeting tonight, I need my kip. But at the end the news came through that Andrew Lansley had let slip that NHS Direct would be replaced by a cut-price service. Essentially, it seems that the decision to replace the NHS Direct number with the one currently being tested in parts of the North East.

The main difference will be that far less medical expertise will be available, which will make the service less useful. It will appear to save money, but if the new service is seen to be useless then the outcome will be more people turning up at GP’s surgeries and A&E departments who don’t need to be there. Read the rest of this entry »

Local press round up

Monday’s meeting of the Rugby Borough Council Cabinet made all three of the local papers. The Observer only arrived this morning, so I waited until I’d read it before compiling this.

The bigger story for them is the Council’s opposition to cuts in the Judicial services, particularly the Government’s plan to close Rugby Magistrates Court. The reasons for objection actually show that making savings in public services is not always so simple as people and politicians think. Read the rest of this entry »

Lib Dems in play confusion

The latest copy of the Rugby Observer featured two stories about play areas on page 9.

One was a story about a group of youngsters who have organised a petition to call for improvements to the play area in Rokeby, on the corner of Southbrook Road and Belmont Road. This was encouraged by the Hillside and Rokeby Community Association (HARCA).The petition was handed it to Sue Roodhouse, a local Liberal Democrat councillor and also a member of HARCA. She is shown posing for a photo opportunity with the kids.

The second story is about how Government cuts announced this week will mean that existing schemes to improve the provision of play areas in Rugby have been scrapped – including a project at Parkfield Road in Newbold.

Local Lib Dems are going to have to be a bit careful nowadays. It’s easy to whip up a little local campaign, but it doesn’t look so good when it’s doomed to failure by the same party’s coalition government, does it?

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More on Brinklow

The local press have a few more updates on the decision to close Brinklow, Studley and Warwick fire stations.

Firstly, the Telegraph tells us that the County Council spent £3,700 on a consultant who told the meeting that a lot of the opposition was ’emotional’.

And secondly the Advertiser has a more complete report of the meeting – including how each councillor in the Rugby area voted. The local Fire fighters say that they feel ‘stabbed in the back’ by the following Tories in Rugby who voted to close the stations:

Peter Butlin, Robin Hazelton, Carolyn Robbins, John Vereker, Helen Walton, Claire Watson and David Wright

Remember their names, wnen it comes to election time.

On Growth

The first estimated figures for UK GDP are out, and they show that the economy grew again between April and June, and at quite a fast rate. So, we now know that Labour left office with:

a)       A deficit that was lower than expected
b)      An economy that was growing faster than expected
c)       Unemployment lower than expected and falling

And yet, what will our new government do? They will claim that:

a)       The deficit is worse than they thought
b)      The economy was ‘ruined’, by the deficit
c)       We need to sack loads of people

One area of the economy that saw a surge in growth was the Construction industry. Which will be one of the areas most badly affected by government cuts such as the Building Schools for the Future programme and new housing. I really hope that we don’t end up with a new recession prompted by the cuts. The latest GDP figures mean that it would be harder to slip into recession, but they also make it pretty clear that if we do, it’s down to the Coalition.

FBU to strike over closures?

From the local papers – Rugby Observer:

But all the fire stations would have been saved if an amendment by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties had been carried

Labour Coun[cillor] Richard Chattaway led a motion for all the fire stations to remain open along with a comprehensive plan showing how current resources could be juggled to ensure all the improvements the Conservatives had said could be made as a result of the closures could still be carried out.

In other words, the Labour group offered a new option which would improve services, keep all of the retained stations and not cost any more money, and the Tories rejected it.

This is about cuts.

From the Coventry Telegraph:

After the crucial vote yesterday, Warwickshire Fire Brigades Union chief Mark Rattray said legal action against a “flawed consultation” would be examined – as well as a strike to protect people’s lives and firefighters’ jobs.

Chief fire officer Graeme Smith responded by saying: “I don’t think it’s in the interests of public safety for strike action, which would put the public at risk.”

But, in an interview with the Telegraph, he could not rule out the closures resulting in potentially fatal increases in journey times for crews responding to 999 calls.

I don’t think that the FBU want to strike (and I assume that most of the people losing their jobs would be represented by the Retained Firefighters Union rather than the FBU anyway, so it’s not simple protectionism), but it’s interesting to see that there is an admission that there could be lives at risk as a result of the closures.

Looking at the way that councillors voted, two Tories from Warwick voted against, and one (Philip Morris-Jones, who represents the Fosse district) abstained. All other Tories from the Rugby area, including the councillor who represents Brinklow (Heather Timms) either voted in favour of the closures or were not in attendance. All Liberal and Labour councillors there voted against the closures.

Update: It is now evident that Heather Timms was present but was unable to vote as she has a relative who works for the Fire Service.

Brinklow Fire Station to close

So, after a full public consultation (result – tens of thousands of responses, the vast majority against closure), and a six month delay to avoid it being an issue at the General Election (would the Tories have achieved a clean sweep of Warwickshire seats if this had been decided before May? I doubt it), the decision has been made.

As predicted yesterday, the council chose option ‘B’, which was to close three retained stations: Brinklow, Warwick and Studley. All are not far from the West Midlands border, and so in effect we are hoping that the Fire Service there will provide extra assistance. The Fire Service claim that this isn’t about cuts, but acknowledge that it will save about £100,000 a year. Dozens of retained fire fighters will lose their positions, and more will be expected of nearby stations.

The 34 councillors in favour of the three closures were all Conservatives, while one, Angela Warner, voted against, and one, Phillip Morris-Jones, abstained. (source – Coventry Telegraph)

This is just the beginning. The ‘Big Society’ will not be able to replace fire fighters.

The Big Society – All old bollocks?

About 15 years ago the Fast Show was in its heyday, and they had a little skit that was based on two old country guys sitting by a wall. One would ask the other “So, what do you make of that yoghurt then”, or “So, what do you make of that Michael Flatley then” or whatever, and the other would always reply “All old bollocks”.

When listening to Dave launching the ‘Big Society’ today, that sketch was the first thing that popped into my head.

It’s not that there isn’t a kernel of a good idea here – a more co-operative society, with mutualist organisation, charity-based volunteerism, and everyone helping each other out without needing to rely on central authority. It’s right up my alley, that kind of thing.

Problem is, I don’t see how the Government expects to bring it about at the same time as they cut loads of budgets and as we are just inching out of a recession.

Firstly, money is a problem. Local councils are getting hit hard by the cuts and one of the easiest areas for them to pull back on is their discretionary grants to local voluntary groups. Croydon just reduced it’s grants by two-thirds for the next year.Also, during a recession and recovery, popular charitable giving dips. So voluntary charity groups are really not in a position to be expanding their services without some extra assistance

Secondly, the approach seems to be for the government to pull back first, and then for the voluntary sector to arrive to fill the gap. This is also how the Tories (and their Lib Dem puppy-dogs) expect jobs to appear over the next year or so – as if by magic, the sacking of loads of public sector workers will create private sector demand. It’s voodoo economics and now they are trying to apply it to society

Thirdly, the government appear to be confused about what it means. As well as letting councils slash support for the very people who would be needed for the Big Society to work, central government are having a bonfire of the ‘quangos’. Some of those ‘quangos’ are also doing the sort of thing that the Big Society is supposed to be about, such as representing tenants.

I know that it’s only been a couple of months, but so far the Tories have already shown their hand when it comes to Health and Education. So as much as commentators and coalition groupies are asking us to be less cynical, I just can’t do it. I think that this idea is just a nice name and a good concept being used to cover the fact that the Tories are going to slash public services.

It is just a nice name. It’s like the “People’s Charter” of the Major “Back to Basics” years. Or the “Big Conversation” of 2005 (which was basically New Labour saying “after eight years of asking the Party what policies they want to see and ignoring them, we decided to open the process up to the whole country”).

Fire Station closures – the effect on Coventry?

Another report from the Coventry Telegraph (articles seem to be appearing there far more frequently than in the Rugby Observer, and the Advertiser hardly puts any content out on the website) on the debate arising on fire stations – Rumours to learn Warwickshire routes quashed by West Midlands Fire Service. Not too sure about the grammar in that headline, but the story is that a fireman from Coventry said that he and colleagues had been told to gen up on routes in Warwickshire, and that his bosses deny that there’s been any changes.

Now, I expect that fire crews near the borders of counties would need to cover each other – back home there’s a station in Horley, in Surrey, that is part of West Sussex Fire Service. But it’s also true that removing a station in Brinklow would likely mean that more cross-border support from the West Midlands is needed in Warwickshire.