NHS crisis

Over Christmas 4 Shropshire Maternity units were closed because of Staff shortages in Telford. The obvious concern being that this is a cynical strategy to undermine the midwife-led units and soften up protests to the idea of them becoming Birthing Centres. You may recall that Birthing Centres aren’t staffed overnight, where women in Labour must call the units to arrange for them to be opened or place an emergency call for an ambulance to take them A&E, which we all know are facing massive pressures already. Crazy.

The Bridgnorth Campaign Group have a meeting set up with Philip Dunn MP who might offer assistance as a Government Health Minister. We hope we are wrong but I expect platitudes and little or no action. According to comments on Facebook he has said that Bridgnorth Maternity Unit needs to have 100 births a year to stay open and currently has 80. Shropshire’s MPs have failed miserably to defend Shropshire’s Corner and ensure Shropshire got it’s fair share under the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) allocation. If Shropshire had received the same STP Allocation as Cornwall then Shropshire’s NHS services would have been better off to the tune of an extra £200m! Cornwall has a similar population to Shropshire but was allocated 24% more money. Shropshire’s Leaders asleep at the wheel it seems.

Shropshire Star article on the closures:

If you haven’t signed the petitions of the Government website yet here are the links to both Maternity Unit petitions:

Save Oswestry Maternity Unit

Save Bridgnorth and Ludlow Maternity Units

Both petitions are currently running at just under 1,500 signatures at the time of writing this.

Just about everybody knows the NHS is in crisis, apart from the Government it seems. For years the problems have been mounting and successive Governments have been content to pass the buck, tinker around the edges and allow the demands on the NHS and A&E to escalate. The current Conservative Government has taken this to new levels, propelling a crisis into a ‘Humanitarian Crisis,’ a term more usually associated with war-torn countries,  and a term dismissed as “irresponsible and overblown” by Theresa May.

We all know people who have been caught up in delays and heard stories of bed blocking because of the failure of the social care system. A social care system also facing a similar crisis. It is widely accepted that there will be a funding gap of £30bn in the NHS by 2020, and a shortfall of around £6bn in social care, which will have serious consequences for patient care.

Last September the Liberal Democrats set a new independent commission to examine the future of the NHS and social care system. The pressure being so severe that now we need to consider how we fund the NHS and Social Care in the national interest. The new Beverage Commission made up of industry experts was asked to explore how to fund the NHS and Social care, and if a new tax was part of the mix.

The Liberal Democrats think that a new ring-fenced income tax top up of 1p in the pound to directly fund the NHS and Social Care is now needed. We also think that the NHS and Social Care should be merged into a new National Care and Health Service. Research by YouGov shows the public are open to the idea of raising money through tax or National Insurance in the face of this crisis.

Under-funding of the NHS of the scale we are seeing is a scandal of massive proportions. Patients waiting on trollies in A&E corridors, because A&E departments are full. Two people dying on A&E trollies in Worcester – one after waiting for 35 hours for a bed is wrong on every level and IS an outrage to humanity. Ambulances are delayed at A&E waiting to hand over patients. A&E departments shut their doors to patients more than 140 times in December in England – a 63% rise on the same period in 2015. 42 such diversions happened over Christmas Week.

Last August, 237 hours of ambulance time were lost at the Royal Shrewsbury and a further 127 lost at the Princess Royal. 364 hours in total. Every minute an Ambulance is delayed at A&E or on a diversion it has potentially life-threatening consequences if those Ambulances are not out in the field.

Farmers Warned on Grant Rip Off

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…


Two Councillors are warning Shropshire Farmers to be on the lookout for a Grant scam following a spate of incidents along border counties over the last few years.

Heather Kidd, Shropshire Councillor for Chirbury and Worthen said "Farmers are being warned to be on the alert for fraudsters aiming to get their hands on key European Union grant payments being made this month.

"The criminals typically pose as a bank or other financial institution, occasionally the police. They call their intended victims claiming that a fraud has been detected on their account and then persuade them to hand over financial information or ask them to transfer money to what they claim is a 'safe account'.

"Although this sounds too obvious a con, it's surprising how many people fall for it. Last year at this time several farmers in my area were contacted by such fraudsters. Now we have been warned by West Mercia police to be on the look out again."

Cllr Richard Huffer (Clee Hill Division) who farms in Bitterley and on Clee Hill added " Unfortunately information about those in receipt of the funds – including their name and how much they are to be paid – is publically available, which allows criminals to directly target victims, making the con more convincing. At this time of year payments begin to arrive into bank accounts, through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which is the EUs main rural payment scheme and the conmen target the activities accordingly.

""It is vital that farmers, and other recipients of the payment, are alert to these scams and are very wary of any phone calls, texts or emails out of the blue asking for personal or financial information, or to transfer money to another account. If you do get any calls of this nature hang up and contact your bank and the police."

Both Councillors are now launched a campaign using websites, e-mails and social media to alert farmers of the dangers.


Published and promoted by Shropshire Liberal Democrats, 72 Cannon Street, Shrewsbury, SY2 5HH
Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY

Source: Shropshire Liberal Democrats

Tory Council Leader Resigns

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

It had to happen and I am glad that it has happened sooner rather than later. Keith Barrow has resigned as council leader following years of concern about conflicts of interest over his business affairs. Complaints have been made and upheld through the council's standards procedure. More have been submitted in the last few days. At least one complaint has been sent to West Mercia police for investigation. There has also been growing dissatisfaction over Keith Barrow's leadership style, which has concentrated power with himself and a few lieutenants.

Now he has resigned..

First, let's begin with some of the good things Keith achieved in his six years as council leader. He established a university college in Shrewsbury. He handled the baby ashes scandal well.

But the main mark Keith Barrow has left on this county is the creation of a centralised, out of touch administration in Shirehall. He has left people working in local government feeling devalued and he has deskilled the council. He has left residents, especially here in the south distrusting, even hating, Shropshire Council.

Back in 2007, voters in Shrewsbury & Atcham, Bridgnorth and South Shropshire voted against a unitary authority in a countywide referendum. Many of the district councillors nevertheless pressed for unitary status. I know that some of those councillors never foresaw what was to happen.

When Shropshire Council was launched as a unitary authority on April Fool's Day 2009, it adopted the "strong leader" model. This gave huge powers to the leader and the cabinet. The only leader of Shropshire Council to date has been Keith Barrow, the Conservative councillor for Oswestry South.

Keith began well. He wanted to talk and engage with people. He met people in pubs. He argued the case. That doesn't mean I agreed with him on policy but he had the popular touch.

Then it began to change. I recall his words the first time I saw him in action at Cabinet, sometime around 2011. He turned to Alan Mosley, leader of the Labour group and, after declaring that he didn't think local government should be political, launched a political attack. And that is the way it is on Shropshire Council. Political. This is the most political local council I have known in my 40 odd years of observing local government.

From around 2012, Keith began to withdraw from open democracy and debate.

Back in September 2013, I complained that Shropshire Council was slipping into a black hole of democracy.

Consultations were often a sham. Remember the two consultations over the closure of the Coder Road recycling centre? Both were unanimously against closure. It didn't make any difference. The portfolio holder, Steve Charmley, did not even come to Ludlow to talk about what was proposed. The decision to close Coder Road was made in a private session in Shirehall from which the public and press were excluded.

Full council meetings were cancelled and then reduced in number. Keith said there wasn't sufficient business but that was because decisions were made in private portfolio holder meetings.

Scrutiny committees are chaired by Conservatives and only by Conservatives. In other councils, scrutiny committees are often chaired by opposition councillors. They scrutinise. In Shropshire, most scrutiny committees spend their time talking but not scrutinising. For the last year, there has been a move to shrink the number of scrutiny committees down to just one.

In other councils, opposition councillors can get matters on the council agenda. We have to resort to councillor questions or motions.

Senior officers have been told they cannot brief opposition councillors unless specifically requested to do so by those councillors. If you do not know what is happening, how can you ask a question?

Times are hard. We are facing savage cuts. We need to work together as councillors, not in the divisive way that was the only way possible during Keith's regime.

Keith Barrow has centralised power on himself. And if you elevate yourself high, you have further to fall.

Andy Boddington

Lib Dem Councillor for Ludlow North

Published and promoted by Shropshire Liberal Democrats, 72 Cannon Street, Shrewsbury, SY2 5HH
Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY

Source: Shropshire Liberal Democrats

Shropshire leader forced to resign from council company after conflict of interest scandal

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

It is a press release slipped out with minimum of publicity. Visitors to the Shropshire Council Newsroom website are only greeted with the headline: "Shropshire Council Standards Sub-Committee meeting – 20 November 2015." That's a headline designed for boredom. Which is surprising because the news website is run by Three Sixty Communications, a subsidiary of ip&e. Three Sixty has often shown itself to be on the ball when it comes to communication. But ip&e is wholly owned by Shropshire Council. So we shouldn't be surprised that this headline was written to disguise the leadership crisis that is enveloping the council.

Keith Barrow quietly resigned as a director and chairman of ip&e ten days ago. At that point, he must have been aware that the external auditors had determined that he had failed to declare a conflict of interest when appointing Oswestry based auditors to ip&e.

At the time, Keith's resignation looked no different to an outsider from the perpetual turnover of ip&e directors. There have been 14 directors appointed since the company was founded in the summer of 2012. Thirteen directors have resigned. Some directors have lasted no more than two months. Keith Barrow was appointed twice and resigned twice. As did former cabinet member Michael Owen.

There are only three directors left now according to Companies House, cabinet member Steve Charmley and two seconded council officers. I have faith in those officers but this is no way to run a company.

ip&e has always been controversial. Some council staff were excited to transfer to the company. They looked forward to breaking free of the dead hand of bureaucracy that pervades much of Shropshire Council. Many more were nervous and anxious to keep their jobs. There is a lot of very good work going on in ip&e. But whether you agree with the council owning a private company or not, I hope you will agree that the people who work in ip&e don't deserve this chaos.

That chaos is down to the man in charge.

Keith Barrow has long lauded ip&e as the future way of running a council like ours. But, as the standards board said today, he has failed to step up to mark and has shown he cannot work with the integrity expected of a chairman of a publicly owned company. Mr Barrow had failed to declare his personal and business relationship with a director of Oswestry-based D.R.E. & Co, which was appointed accountant and auditor of ip&e.

So for what is the future for Keith Barrow? It is widely known that he applied to be the Conservative candidate for the West Mercia police and crime commissioner. He wasn't selected. Yet his days as leader of Shropshire Council must now be numbered.

Andy Boddington

Lib Dem Councillor for Ludlow North

Published and promoted by Shropshire Liberal Democrats, 72 Cannon Street, Shrewsbury, SY2 5HH
Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY

Source: Shropshire Liberal Democrats