Mid Staffs Hospital Inquiry raised at LDC meeting

At the Audit and Standards Committee at LDC on Thursday Councillor Alan White referred to the Francis Inquiry, he called it a “Review”, and, contrasting it to this Committee said:

“When a scrutiny committee didn’t know the right questions to ask and its defence was it didn’t know the right questions to ask.  It doesn’t wash.”

I can only think he was referring to the Staffordshire Health Scrutiny Committee chaired by his fellow County and Lichfield District Council colleague, Janet Eagland.

On the 15th of May 2009 I wrote to the then Leader at the time asking him to replace her after she was interviewed.

Dear Philip

I write to you because of the remarks given in evidence to the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry on the 25th January by Councillor Matthew Ellis.  He was speaking about Health Scrutiny (though no one can remember him ever attending a meeting).

On page 27 of the transcript the Chairman, Robert Francis QC asks him: “So you don’t see a role for the leaders of the council, yourself included, collectively to ensure that what you would see as being the appropriate degree of challenge of outside bodies takes place, even if failing to do so affects the citizens you represent?”

Cllr Ellis replies: “At the end of the day, it’s the leader that appoints the individuals that lead scrutiny committees.”

A few lines later the Chairman says “I imagine that you would step in, collectively, and do something about that.”

Cllr Ellis replies: “I would certainly hope that the leader of the council would step in and do something about it, yes.”

And here I come to the reason for my letter.  I am asking you to remove Councillor Janet Eagland from the Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee following her evidence – or lack of it – at the same Inquiry on last Tuesday.

I am sure you will have read the transcript by now and like me, Cure the NHS and others have been appalled by her performance.

Besides the amnesia suffered by the Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee resulting in her being unable to comment on anything at all under her responsibility there were two particularly shocking admissions.

The first, on page 70 of the transcript, is where she is asked by Mr Kark: “Do you get any of the data in relation to complaints at the moment?”  To which Cllr Eagland says: “No.” and when pressed further on this issue says: “No, I haven’t, but it’s no – we could put it on our work programme.”

The second is just a few lines later in the transcript when the Chairman has to intervene because she says that (in relation to the current Chief Executive and Chairman of the hospital) that she hopes “we’re getting an honest and truthful answer.”

The Chairman says: “Mrs Eagland, I come back again, you’ve just told me that you now think that you were duped, your word, by the previous chief Executive and chair, and you’re telling us and the public that you now rely on people’s honesty.”

Cllr Eagland answers, “Yes”.

This is pursued by the Chairman who points out (on page 72) “But isn’t it a lesson to learn from that that it’s not enough to rely on what you’re told?  If you have a duty of scrutiny, that it’s not enough to reply on what you’re told?”

I have to say that along with Stafford Borough Council’s Health Scrutiny witnesses the reputation of scrutiny in the County is now greatly damaged.

You will remember that under the Labour Administration Staffordshire County Council had a national reputation for good scrutiny practice.  I, along with the excellent Scrutiny Managers we had at the council, were invited to take part in seminars and presentation at other local authorities and other organisations and conferences.  This may have been because, contrary to what Cllr Ellis said in his evidence, Labour Party rules mean that the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice Chairs have to be elected by the Group as a whole.

In this case I agree with Cllr Ellis, and ask that you now take action for the sake of residents in the County and for the County’s reputation itself by removing the current Chair of health Scrutiny.

Finally you will recall that – admittedly in opposition – you, and your Deputy Leader, Ian Parry, said that the Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees should be held by opposition members and not by the controlling group.  Will you now carry out that promise?

Yours sincerely

Cllr Steven Norman

She was replaced shortly afterwards. – but the Opposition was not given the Chair roles.

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.

Police Watchdog says “We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk”

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.

Ben Adams campaigning last year

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.


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”

Painting 10/10 pothole repair 0/10

You have to be impressed. No pothole is going to stop Staffordshire County Council repainting white lines on speed humps. ironstone-rd-june-2022-1 I reported this pothole in Ironstone Road on the 4th of June this year although it had been there for quite a while. ironstone-rd-august-2022 It was, understandably classified as “non urgent” at least understandably compared to a pavement trip hazard near the library that I and many of my colleagues had reported and which took three years to repair. Clearly the Conservative-run County Council did not want to delay the repainting of the white lines by 4 or 5 years and so, today, carried on regardless. Is it any wonder they are listed as 138 in the league table of local authorities responsible for highway maintenance with just 15% reports fixed by fillthathole compared to Stoke on Trent at no 29 with 51% fixed.  I bet they’re glad they “left” Staffordshire in 1998. 15/08/2022

Burntwood Recycling Centre to close

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!

Sign giving whoever took their “new scoop” “..until Tueday afternoon to return it. After that the video will be passed over to the police”

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.