23rd January 2017
By Graham Smith
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard will tomorrow (Tuesday) come under pressure to allow a debate on the proposed £264million health service cuts, following concern that elected politicians are being frozen out of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) procedure.
Although attempts to raise the issue in the form of a motion to tomorrow’s full council meeting have been ruled out of order – by officials – a number of councillors have tabled questions to Mr Pollard, seeking assurances that they will be allowed to debate, and vote on, the final package of recommendations.
It is widely expected that the STP will ultimately suggest the closure of some community hospitals, similar to the outcomes currently being debated in Devon. Officials leading the STP in Cornwall have repeatedly refused to rule out such a possibility.
A debate and vote on the final recommendations could put NHS and council officials on a collision course with elected councillors. Meanwhile Cornwall’s six MPs, all Conservative, are advocating a more cautious “wait and see” approach to the detail of the STP recommendations, due in the summer. A final decision about how the £264million cuts will fall rests with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Penzance councillor Cornelius Olivier (Labour) has a question on tomorrow’s agenda asking: “Does the Leader of the Council agree that consent to the content of the Strategic Transformation Plan for NHS services in Cornwall from any Cornwall Council officer, sub-committee or committee should be subject to final approval from a full meeting of Cornwall Councillors?”
St Just and Pendeen councillor Sue James (Liberal Democrat) asks: “Our Devolution Deal, ‘putting Cornwall first’ approach appears to be a major reason why the development of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Cornwall is being presented as following a partnership rather than an NHS led approach.
“Whilst there may be potential benefits in that for the people of Cornwall, the lack of an open and transparent democratic strategic steer places the legitimacy of the outcome at risk.
“To give such a steer was the reason I, with the support of many others,
had hoped for a debate in this Chamber today. This is now giving a public perception that the final plan might be officer led rather than locally driven and democratically accountable.
“Given that I have had significant public interest and support for my request and that a round of public meetings has now taken place, will you, as Leader, ensure that a full debate takes place at our next Council meeting?”
Stoke Climsland councillor Neil Burden (Independent) asks: “The STP public consultation came to a close last week. What did the STP and Council learn from such encounters and how will the utter frustration of the public be addressed? It appears the idea of a Sustainable Transformation Plan in changing how the NHS and the Social Services operate in streamlining and making the whole more efficient has become seriously confusing by at the same time the need to cut services in order to save money.
“Surely this is muddying the water and a real coming together of various elements of care which could be advantageous is already seriously damaged at the first hurdle making the public very nervous as we have witnessed as to what services they will now lose.”
The next full meeting of Cornwall Council, at which a debate on the STP is most likely to be held, is due on Tuesday 21st February.
The official STP document, “Taking Control, Shaping Our Future,” remains available for public consultation until Friday (27th January.)
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