Text of address to Ottery Town Council by Philip Algar, a long-term campaigner for the Ottery hospital, including its in-patient beds:
“OSMTC 29th NOVEMBER 2018
As an interested member of the public, I have attended almost all the town council meetings over the last few years. During that time, I have seen the councillors confront many issues, some trivial and some serious. However, I have not seen a collective, note the word “collective”, and timely public effort by the council as a whole to support those of us who have been campaigning to save the Ottery hospital. I can think of nothing that is more important to the local people than having access to a well-located modern greatly-valued hospital and this, surely, justifies your collective support. Why has such support been missing?
Whenever the subject of the hospital’s future has been included on the town council agenda, the main speaker, often the only speaker, has been one councillor, who, quite correctly, has said that she does not speak for the council but for a group of which she is a leading member.
As recently as last August, I asked the council to adopt an official and supportive role but nothing happened and, as far as I know, my suggestion that the hospital should become a community asset, which was rejected by EDDC, was not challenged by this council, even although such status has, I am told, been granted to other hospitals. I had suggested in advance that it might be wise to devise a response in anticipation of a negative decision.
All this is why I shall no longer be attending your meetings which will be good news for many of you. Furthermore, the well-intentioned and hard-working unofficial groups have failed to make much progress with the official bodies and, apparently, admit this. That said, it would be helpful if they were more communicative with the public.
Given this lamentable situation, it was hardly surprising that three councillors, backed by a county councillor, suggested setting up a semi-official working group to solve the crisis. Three councillors voted in favour and six, according to the draft minutes of the meeting, abstained.
I was astonished to learn that, allegedly, some councillors construed this as a defeat for the trio. That is breathtaking and worthy of Private Eye. If this is true, it also exposes a level of ignorance that calls into question the competence of those involved. If it is not true, I withdraw this comment immediately.
Now, despite an objective explanation from Dr. Margaret Hall, explaining that, effectively, NHS groups, apparently, will only discuss matters with official groups or those under the aegis of the council, you still chose to organise this meeting, at an unusual time when so many residents are at work. I note the comments that this meeting was planned as councillors were attending a finance meeting. The claim by the abstainers, that they did not have sufficient information, has already been undermined by Dr. Hall’s contribution so why have another meeting?
This, presumably, is an effort to overturn the initial decision on the creation of a working group. The agenda also raises the possibility of supporting a decision that has already been agreed after a vote of three to nil, and which has now been explained by Dr. Hall. I find the possibility that organising a meeting to consider reversing the democratically-taken decision to be a truly ludicrous waste of time and totally unnecessary.
Those who were penalised by the decision to remove inpatient beds and now face the prospect that the hospital may not even become a hub, deserve much more from their councillors.”