Would you really want to be a Conservative Party candidate when their government’s new local NHS services organisation, the Integrated Care Board, is going to close the Burntwood Health and Wellbeing Centre next to the Leisure Centre and banish almost 5000 patients, sorry, they say “disperse”, to other GP surgeries?
In fact, what would you say (if you were a Conservative Party candidate) when asked: “When will you close the current health centre and when will you open the new one?”
Would you be honest and say, “It’s going to close in March 2024 and the building is due to be taken down in September 2024. The new one is not planned to be up and running until 2025.”
And then when asked if planning permission has been submitted yet? Would you be honest and say, “NO.”?
So, then you are asked: “How long did Greenwood House Health Centre take to build?” and you, the Conservative Party candidate remember, says, “It took 2 years and 7 months after the planning application was submitted. Of course, that was over 13 years since it was promised – until the Conservative and LibDem Coalition Government changed local NHS organisation for the first time.”
You are then asked: “Has the Integrated Care Board, that your government set up, consulted the 5000 patients – or the patients that will be affected in other surgeries?” Of course, you, the Conservative Candidate, must answer, “No. The rules mean they do not have to, and they aren’t.”
Then, when the voter has recovered from this astonishing admission you are asked if the other surgeries have room for even more patients. You have to admit that just in January “There were 951 patients waiting more that 28 days for an appointment at the Darwin Medical Centre and 58 patients at Salters Meadow Health Centre.”
Exasperated, the voter says, “But at least our Conservative MP is trying stop this appalling situation for his electors, isn’t he?”
Of course, you, the unlucky representative for the local Conservatives, have now made your excuses and left.
I will also be asking why the council leadership did not consider funding the increased costs – it will have to anyway if the Leisure Centre is not to operate at reduced hours
Today, Thursday 26th of January, Lichfield District Council announced they were taking back Burntwood (and Friary Grange) Leisure Centres following Freedom Leisure’s inability to carry on with the increase in energy costs.
Clearly, the District Council, has not agreed to help with the increased running costs of the Leisure Centre and so are taking it back “in house” where they (council tax payers) will have to wholly fund all the running costs.
There is no help from the Government – and it will be interesting to see what the MP says about it – after all he’s already mentioned “Burntwood” this year – when he had a break from promoting the Mayor of the West Midlands.
Plenty of warnings
In fact, this should not come as a surprise as Freedom Leisure closed its first swimming pools in Milton Keynes and East Sussex last October with the Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Horsfall, saying:
“We are frankly devastated that it has come to this. Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because energy costs are such a large proportion of our overall costs particularly with swimming pools and as a not-for-profit leisure trust we operate at very low surpluses and these increases simply cannot be absorbed”
Then only just over two weeks ago, responding to the government’s announcement of the Energy Bill Discount Scheme he said:
“I am extremely disappointed and frustrated as to why public sector leisure has been omitted from the list. Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because we are a very intensive user of utilities with energy costs a very large proportion of our overall costs particularly in centres with swimming pools. We have recently seen our annual energy bill move from £8m to £20m even with the temporary cap.”
It seemed, therefore, almost inevitable that Burntwood and Friary Grange would fall victim and that has proven to be the case though the decision to take the service back in house was not. Other options were and are available.
Clearly help from the Government is needed. After all it has a Health and Wellbeing strategy I think and has just given millions of pounds in Levelling Up Funding in the country for other Leisure Centres – albeit not in Lichfield.
Answers are needed
Councillor Mike Wilcox, Chair of the district council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and I as Vice Chair will be meeting with the council’s Chief Executive next week to seek reassurances on the way forward that does not impact on the service for residents in the Burntwood area.
I will also be asking why the council leadership did not consider funding the increased costs – it will have to anyway if the Leisure Centre is not to operate at reduced hours. The decision has been made without it going to councillors and it is unclear as to the reason the Council seems keen to take it back in house when other options are available.
Lichfield District Council does have form on this
Councillor Sue Woodward was Leader of the District Council Labour Group in early 2019 when Freedom Leisure were telling LDC of the problems with the Friary Grange Leisure Centre.
She said: “The Cabinet Member responsible at the time said there was to be a Condition Survey, but LDC sat on it until after the elections that May. There were some long-standing issues with Burntwood Leisure Centre but again LDC have not reacted quickly enough”
“However, when we were at the Leisure Centre for a Police Consultation meeting on Tuesday the place was packed. Was there something wrong with the contract?”
Chasetown ward residents overwhemingly elected Labour’s Paul Taylor to make it a Labour victory – and a stong voice at Lichfield District.
Paul Taylor, Labour Party, 318 votes and 73.2% of the vote share.
Norma Bacon, Conservative Party, 116 votes and 26.8% of the vote share.
That’s a 15% swing to Labour. So with the full district council elections in May next year, probably the same prime minister, high inflation and further cuts in local services I wouldn’t want to be a Conservative candidate in 2023.
Staffordshire Police is not carrying out effective investigations, the police inspectorate has said. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) also said Staffordshire Police is failing to properly identify and assess victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police.
HMICFRS has therefore issued two causes of concern to Staffordshire Police. This process can be accelerated when a police force’s failures raise concerns about public safety – as is the case with Staffordshire Police.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:
“We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk.”
But which of Staffordshire’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners is to blame for the damning report from the Inspector of Constabulary? Matthew Ellis, who was responsible up to May 2021 or Benedict Adams responsible since?
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:
“We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk.
“The first concern is regarding the force’s call handling. We found that the force is failing properly to identify and assess victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police. Repeat victims are not always identified, along with others in the household who may also be vulnerable, which means this is not taken into account when considering the response the victim should have. Calls are not always responded to in a timely way.
“The second is regarding how the force carries out investigations, including providing appropriate support for victims. In some cases, investigations were not carried out in a timely manner and relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry were not always completed. Many investigations were not properly reviewed by supervisors, and victims were sometimes not updated throughout investigations.
On the 21st of September Staffordshire’s latest Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Ben Adams, said in response to the police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) report:
“There is still work to be done to bring some fundamental police services up to the standards people expect and deserve. I am greatly reassured that a lot has changed within the force since this inspection in January 2022.”
But he would have been informed of the findings even before the report was published at the end of March.
The Inspectorate, referring to Accelerated Causes of Concern states:
“Previously, when we have identified a cause of concern as part of a PEEL inspection, we have alerted the relevant police force(s) immediately so that remedial action can be taken. However, we have reported that cause of concern and the associated recommendations more publicly in the full force report. This can be some months after we initially uncovered the concern.”
But even if we assume the post was late and he didn’t get the report until the 29th of March, the publication date, then Cause of concern no. 1:
“The force needs to improve how it identifies and assesses vulnerability at first point of contact.” And this needed to be done within three months – so by end of June this year.
And Cause of concern no 2:
“The force needs to make sure that it carries out effective investigations and that it gives victims the support they need.” And this needs to be done within six months – so by the end of September.
The main theme seems to be lack of resources and officers – despite higher than inflation increases every year from 2018/19 by the Police Commissioner. In fact before he become Staffordshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner Councillor Ellis, as he then was, complained that the Police Authority could increase Council Tax without consultation (2.8% that year) but by 2017 he was saying Council Tax cap should be lifted!
Four years later he was able, and did, increase his share of the tax by 12.46% or 7 times the rate of inflation that year.
Rishi Sunak introduced the National Insurance increase to pay for social care – now Staffordshire County Council is worried they won’t get the money they desperately need.
The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that £13bn is needed for the social care sector and Staffordshire County Council’s Conservative Leader, Alan White, has said: “We are also concerned about how the funding of the new Government social care reforms will be funded now the NHS health and social care levy plans have been scrapped.”
But only for a while in September when the surface behind the skips, which is always full of large puddles and not good for employees, is re-concreted. Hopefully we will get a reasonable amount of notice nearer the time – but not the day before I hope!
With the blue bag fiasco roll-out was the news that tetrapaks were not being collected in the dry reyclable waste anymore. However, if you are able to store them somewhere you can take them to the Burntwood Recycling Centre . Clearly this is not as environmentally friendly as before but the companies that take the kerbside waste for Lichfield District are not allowing them to be mixed with the other paper waste anymore.
Please note that there are cameras on the site now so be aware.
They are supposed to be there in order for you to view before you go there if they are busy – but that information is on the County Council’s website anyway, though not “live” information.