Would you want to be a Conservative candidate in Burntwood?

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.”

News Release issued by the forerunner to the ICB in 2010

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.  

A brighter Burntwood

Burntwood Town Council have agreed to add flower planters to some junctions leading up to the traffic islands in the town.

Members of the Policy and Resources Committee I chair supported proposals to buy 21 planters for junctions such as the “skoda” island and the junctions with Milestone Way to brighten up the town.

It is not straightforward to replant the traffic islands them selves but we can, with the County Council’s permission, add planters in the road splits leading up to them.

We hope this will improve the junctions and cheer residents and drivers up for most of the year.

Leisure centres like Lichfield District’s under threat because of Government’s lack of help

Without further Government support a November survey by Ukactive showed that 40 per cent of council areas will likely see leisure centres close or services reduce before 31 March 2023. Three quarters (74 per cent) of council areas are classified as ‘unsecure’, meaning there is risk of closure or reduced services before 31 March 2024 Local Government Association.

Just over five years ago when the District Council awarded Freedom Leisure the contract the then Cabinet Member for Leisure, now Deputy Leader, Iain Eadie said:

“Where Freedom has taken over the operation of leisure centres in other areas of the country, such as Wrexham and Arun, participation levels have gone up, significant investment into the facilities has taken place, and local communities have responded well to the wider opportunities to live healthier, more active lifestyles, and to make the most of their leisure time.”

Freedom Leisure has had help from other councils because of energy costs – including Wrexham Council and Arun Council in October last year.

Why not Lichfield District?

I hope to find out tomorrow when Cllr Wilcox and I meet with the Chief Executive over the issue. Why wasn’t the same action taken by LDC as Wrexham, Arun and many other councils have done? It seems a sudden decision withour going through the proper Scrutiny process. After all the Committee met only 11 days ago to discuss the Council’s finances for the year ahead.

The full text of the letter from Local Government Leaders to Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove is below.

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor of the Exchequer
HM Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road

Rt Hon Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Levelling up, housing and communities (DLUHC)
2 Marsham Street

Cc Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Cc Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

23 January 2023

Dear Chancellor and Secretary of State,

Urgent support for public sport and leisure through crisis and transformation

We write as the lead organisations representing local authorities in England. Our members are responsible for the country’s public sport and leisure infrastructure, which is facing an extraordinary financial crisis due to the ongoing impacts from COVID-19, the cost of living and the energy crisis. In light of these pressures, we have significant concerns about the decision to exclude swimming pools and leisure centres from the list of sectors eligible for extra support under the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme and the Energy Bills Discount Scheme.

Since 2019, evidence from our leisure providers shows energy bills have risen by 300 per cent. During the pandemic councils across the country invested £159 million to keep facilities afloat, alongside £144 million of provider reserves, and in addition to the Government’s welcome £100 million national leisure recovery fund. This money now risks being wasted if we allow these facilities to close. At the close of this letter we set out three clear actions Government can take.

This is not a call for a hand-out. Councils and their partners have been working together to transform facilities into assets fit to meet the challenges of the future, whether co-locating with GP surgeries to create wellness hubs, retrofitting with solar panels and heat pumps, or energy-efficient newbuilds that boost participation and cost less to run. Many Levelling Up Fund bids from councils are aimed at continuing this transformation and Government has chosen to invest in many of these bids. But if council-run and commissioned facilities, including Trusts and Community Interest Companies (CiCs), close because of unaffordable running costs, these transformations will not happen and a core plank of the levelling up approach will fail. (See annex for case studies)

Without further Government support a November survey by Ukactive showed that 40 per cent of council areas will likely see leisure centres close or services reduce before 31 March 2023. Three quarters (74 per cent) of council areas are classified as ‘unsecure’, meaning there is risk of closure or reduced services before 31 March 2024. Many provider contracts also have legally binding schedules that transfer the risk of energy price increases to their local authority meaning pressures will likely come to a head at the end of this financial year, affecting council budgets for 2023/24. 

Facility closures will undermine the Government’s commitment to support vulnerable communities, protect vital public services, tackle inequalities and grow the economy.

Leisure centres and swimming pools are more than a lifestyle choice, they are a vital service because:

  • They provide affordable opportunities for communities to be active and healthy with 8.9 million users annually and 165 million unique visits; and are especially important for users in more deprived areas, where data tells us users prefer to exercise in a leisure​ centre over other informal settings.
  • People’s health and wellbeing, and therefore NHS performance relies on leisure facilities. Leisure centres deliver two thirds of cancer rehabilitation services and 79 per cent of​ social prescribing initiatives. Swimming alone saves health system £357 million per year according to research by Sheffield Hallam University and Swim England.​
  • Seventy-two per cent of schools use public swimming pools to deliver their statutory responsibility for learn to swim and the water safety curriculum. And 75 per cent of grassroots sports clubs rely on​ public leisure centres to operate.
  • Being physically active prevents many serious physical and mental health conditions, calculated to save £9.5 billion per year (Sport England). Of this amount, £5.2 billion is in healthcare savings and £1.7 billion is in social care savings, while a further £20 billion of value comes from stronger and safer communities.
  • They provide an estimated 585,000 jobs in the UK, in particular offering career opportunities for young people who make up a large proportion of the paid workforce: 45 per cent are aged 16-24 and 21 per cent are aged 25-34.

Many councils have commissioned out leisure services helping to deliver improved outcomes. 94 per cent of councils report using leisure centres in schemes to tackle health inequalities and 97 per cent of councils and leisure providers wish to commission these services to do more. Recent health economics research shows that an increase in healthy life expectancy by 3.7 years could be achieved over a decade if leisure centres were used to deliver a national physical activity improvement scheme (DCN).  Leisure providers have done a sterling job delivering these outcomes; providers operate on small profit margins, ploughing money back into the service to support communities, but this has left them vulnerable and unable to do more.

The failure to identify support for the sector will be the final straw for certain facilities and services across the country – especially for swimming pools, which cannot be replaced by limited private sector provision and where Sport England data shows swimmers do not transfer to another form of activity. Leisure, sport and swimming pool closures on a national level will unequivocally damage our national health, the economy and will increase pressure on the health service. Action taken now will be far more cost-effective and will prevent costly knock-on impacts for society and the public purse in the long-term.

We therefore urge the Government to act swiftly with three key measures:

  1. Reclassify pools and leisure centres as energy intensive in the Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they can access the higher level of energy price discount.                               
  2. Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms and sports facilities – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised. 
  3. Set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, and social wellbeing of the nation. 

Our members stand ready to work in partnership with Government to prevent further closures and accelerate our progress towards a sustainable leisure network.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Chair, Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, Local Government Association and Leader, Portsmouth City Council

Professor Jim McManus
President, Association of Directors of Public Health

Mo Baines
Chief Executive, Association for Public Service Excellence

Councillor Linda Taylor
County Councils Network Unitary Spokesperson and Leader, Cornwall Council

Debbie Kaye
Chair, Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association

Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen
Chairman, District Councils’ Network and Leader, Breckland Council

Councillor Elizabeth Campbell
Executive member for London’s Future: Business, Economy and Culture, London Councils and Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Sir Stephen Houghton CBE
Chair, Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities and Leader, Barnsley Council

William Benson
Solace Spokesperson for Finance and Chief Executive, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

Well people did have their say!

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.

And welcome to Lichfield District Council, Paul!

Today, you can have your say!

In the by-election for Chasetown Ward today, voters have a clear choice: Vote for Burntwood or vote Conservative. Below is an extract from the minutes at LDC where Labour proposed using money that included extra “windfall” monies for Burntwood and the rural areas – instead of just on Lichfield City Centre’s never ending multi-milion pound project known as Friarsgate.

The mini budget and Staffordshire’s vulnerable residents

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.”

Just another 1 minute read..

Continue reading “The mini budget and Staffordshire’s vulnerable residents”

Burntwood tip to close for six weeks

Update! Now reopening in Mid November as delays caused by “weather”!

As predicted, but surprised by the timetable, Burntwood Tip is to close for six weeks on the 17th of September.

In 2010 when the County Council, at a second attempt, wanted to close the site permanently a petition of 12,000 signatures, campaigning by your local Labour councillors (again) and good scrutiny stopped it.

The “temporary” notice telling Burntwood residents of its “permanent” closure in 2010

At the time it was reported: “Councillors and residents fear fly-tipping will soar if the centre closes. Residents in Cannock fear traffic chaos at the town’s Poplars landfill centre if additional users join regular queues to access the site.”

Ironically, today, the Local Government Association issued a news release entitled, “Lenient guidelines leading to low fly tipping fines, councils warn”

Continue reading “Burntwood tip to close for six weeks”