Letter: Rochdale needs a 34% increase in Adult Social Care funding not a 34% increase in councillors' expenses

Date published: 09 January 2017

Dear Editor,

I wrote to every Labour councillor on Rochdale Council on 14 November (2016) to lobby them for their individual views on the Sustainability and Transformation Plan' (STP) for the NHS locally.

I received just two replies out of a possible forty-eight Labour responses (not one incidentally from any of the three councillors representing the electoral ward where I live).

I considered even for Rochdale this is a pitifully poor response in terms of numbers from our councillors bothered to respond. One would have thought that being directly about the NHS our Labour councillors would have been moved to respond in droves.

Clearly, they have forgotten - or possibly never heard - Nye Bevan's famous quote that: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it."

Forty-six of our local Labour 'firebrands' at least appear to have little 'faith' and certainly very little 'fight' for our NHS in them at all.

In this campaign letter it was pointed out of the local Sustainability and Transformation Plan' (STP) for the NHS that: 'This is about closing hospitals and getting capital receipts. It’s a cynical rehash of earlier plans and is about the breaking up and selling off of the NHS. It will lead to a loss of vital services and will put lives at risk. Our job is to protect the NHS and this plan is about dismantling it.

'The plans will mean reducing the number of A&E hospitals from 140 to less than 70 across England and cutting hospital beds, while hoping that care in the community (also being cut) will pick up the slack.

'They include huge shortfalls of millions of pounds – patients just can't be cared for properly without more funding.'

It is telling that so few local Labour councillors, this from the party that set up the National Health Service, appear to think an email lobbying on behalf of the NHS is worth even a reply. 

Especially so since at national level we can see the Labour Party's own website proudly points out that: '3.9 million people are stuck on waiting lists and A&Es are in crisis: yet the Autumn Statement offered not a penny more for our NHS or social care', and calls on supporters to 'Join us in calling on Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt to give the NHS and social care the funding they need'.

'Under the Tories', the website goes on at some length, 'Our NHS is underfunded and understaffed.'

'Worst NHS deficits on record at £2.45 billion. Around 3.9 million people are now on the English waiting lists to start treatment. 1.8 million people waited four or more hours in A&E last year, up over 400 per cent since 2010.One in four patients have to wait a week or more to speak to a GP or nurse, or do not get an appointment at all.'

When did Rochdale Labour councillors adopt a local policy on the NHS at such apparent variance with national Labour Party policy and political priority?

Given this weekend's 'humanitarian crisis', which has forced the Red Cross to intervene in the NHS, when Land Rovers have been deployed to ferry patients from hospitals (created in part by the fact that "between half a million and a million people who used to get social care support no longer do").

I would urge all Rochdale councillors to urgently reconsider their proposed cuts to Adult Social Care and read the Red Cross website, which this weekend called for ' The Government to allocate funds to the NHS Health & Social Care', stating:' Many patients are fit to leave hospital but they can’t because the right care and support isn’t available for them at home'.

A lack of investment in care services for adults, cuts to funding and increasing demand have led to a gap in care provision.

The end result is people stuck in hospital beds that are needed for new patients, or they are discharged without adequate support.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: 'No one chooses to stay in hospital unless they have to, but we see first-hand what happens when people are sent home without appropriate and adequate care.

'We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them.'

'If people don’t receive the care they need and deserve, they will simply end up returning to A&E, and the cycle begins again.'

This is clearly not the time for our Labour Council to push through what has been described as the 'Worst council decision ever made':

...over sustained and well motivated local opposition: total savings: 2017/18 £200,000 ongoing and 2018/19 £727,000 to Adult Social Care.

We are told by the council’s cabinet member for finance: "We are still having to make some very tough decisions about the services we provide.

"We have already delivered significant savings while protecting the services that matter most to our residents but the task of making further cuts while setting a balanced budget gets tougher each year."

'Tougher' for who? The local tax payer is entitled to ask. Certainly not our duly elected representatives.

Last year our council spent over £700,000 on councillor’s allowances, should the 34%/51% increase be allowed to go ahead then next year’s figure will be closer to £1.2million.

Yet these very same councillors advocate slashing vital frontline services. What kind of local socially dysfunctional dystopia are they seeking to create here?

As Rob Grieg, nationally respected chief executive of the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) and a former government national director for learning disabilities, points out: 'The Rochdale consultation does not offer evidence on impact or make this calculation, only quoting the proposed cost saving. Yes, it will be cheaper to support people in large group settings because staff will be supporting more people at once – but at what outcome cost?'

Concluding that: 'Some 263 adults with a learning disability risk losing fundamental rights so Rochdale Council can save £1.4m from its budget – a saving of £5,313 per person. This, we now know, is the price of people’s rights for at least one English council.'‘rochdale-council-turning-the-clock-back-on-the-rights-for-those-with-learning-disabilities’

There should be an immediate halt to such proposals followed by an immediate rethink on the priority that local Labour councillors give the NHS from now on, or an immediate reduction made to the expenses paid to those councillors who do not bother even to acknowledge, let alone reply, to constituents lobbying as their Labour colleagues do the length and breadth of the UK. After all it is part of their job as councillor.

If they are not able to grasp that simple (and generally widely accepted elsewhere) political reality perhaps then some form of 'performance related pay' for councillors should be introduced immediately so that those who are too lazy, or simply too politically inexperienced, enough to have the common courtesy of replying to constituents legitimate concerns should not be awarded an 'above inflation' overblown 34%/51% pay rise.


Andrew Wastling

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