I’ve just got back from the demonstration outside of the Halton council meeting about the loss of another NHS contract to an American company. The services being lost are the NHS walk-in services for Widnes and Runcorn. This looks to have been done in secret by the CCG, and if so why was it allowed to be done this way. Why did councillors not know and why did they not fight to keep the services in the NHS.
I have often been told that the Halton councillors do not run the council, when they should be setting priorities and directing the paid employees on the general direction for the council. Tonight I saw for myself that the unelected and unaccountable staff run the council.
Councillor Chris Loftus arrived and told the gathered crowd that he was so angry that he had only just found out about the privatisation by the back door of part of our NHS. Sorry Chris, that is not good enough. He told us that councillor Peter Lloyd Jones who is on the Warrington and NHS Foundation Hospital Trust had also been unaware (apparently). Why? Was it not on any agenda? Perhaps it was hidden away in a briefing document that he forgot to read. It appears he and others on the trust have been caught sleeping on the job and the ones who will lose out are the people of Halton and Weaver Vale.
The position of ignorance by the committee tonight is inexcusable. But it gets worse.
The privatisation of the walk in centres was not on tonight’s agenda and will not be on an agenda until September, when the ink on the contract will be dry. Really?
Councillor Loftus came out and read a statement prepared by the legal department (on whose advice I wonder), telling the councillors they could not to raise this as part of the agenda, not as part of matters arising and not even in any other business. This is the tail wagging the dog. I wonder if Councillor Loftus questioned the legal basis on why the council officials had prevented them from discussing the loss of another essential service?
I asked Councillor Loftus why the Labour councillors did not raise it anyway as it was such an important issue for many people in and around the Halton area. At the suggestion, he appeared scared and told me that the Labour group would discipline him. The Labour councillors, that the people of Halton elect to represent their needs, would discipline the only councillor willing to stand and be counted.
No wonder Councillor Cassidy was handed an application form for the Tory party as she sheepishly sneeked past the demonstrators. She didn’t even have the grace to acknowledge the presence of the people who had elected her to represent them.
I am not a Halton resident, but have had to use the emergency services there on occasion, but if I was I would be asking these councillors why they are not doing what they were elected to do and standing up for Labour values.