“Shepton Mallet hospital campaigners: “Reopen this hospital or we’ll see you in court”

Any bets on this hospital re-opening!

“A group of campaigners have launched a legal bid to try and prevent the temporary closure of a community hospital in Somerset.

Shepton Mallet Community Hospital Supporters Group have submitted a pre-action protocol letter to the Somerset Partnership Trust in an effort to reverse the temporary closure of the town’s community hospital.

A pre-action protocol letter is sent from one party to another in a dispute to narrow any issues or to see if litigation can be avoided.

Ten in-patient beds were closed temporarily in October due to staffing issues with the trust saying that they hoped to reopen them in March 2018.

Confirmation of the decision to temporarily close the hospital came after an email to staff was leaked on social media, saying that the plans would “proceed”.

This was despite a previous statement which said that it was “considering its next steps”.

The partnership later insisted that “nothing has changed” and that it remains focused on reopening the hospital towards the end of March 2018.

In a statement, a spokesman for the supporters group said that the letter aimed to challenge the alleged “unlawfulness” of the trusts decision and to “achieve the re-opening of the in-patient beds as quickly as possible.”

Paul Turner said: “We have asked the Trust to rescind its decision before a Court quashes it, and if it wants to take any such decision in the future or any other decision on a change in service at SMCH, the Trust must undertake a prior proper public consultation.

“This is nothing new and the point has been made before in meetings with SOMPAR representatives.”

He added: “We are of course also prepared to take part in alternative dispute resolution to avoid going to court.

“We have asked to be kept up to date concerning developments in this dispute.”

Somerset Partnership Chief Executive, Peter Lewis said: “We have received the letter and we are considering our response.

“In the meantime, I want to reassure the Shepton Mallet community that we remain committed to re-opening the community hospital inpatient ward as soon as we can, although we do not expect this to be before the end of March 2018.”

The issue of the temporary closure was raised at a debate in Westminster Hall last month by the MP for Wells, James Heappey.

Mr Heappey said: “The overall nurse rota statistics for both day and night shifts were 100 per cent in Shepton.”


Cranbrook (Preferred Approach) consultation opens


“Cranbrook Plan – Preferred Approach

We are delighted to advise that East Devon District Council are consulting on the above plan and we would welcome your comments that need to be received by us by

9:00 am on Monday 8 January 2018.

The Cranbrook Plan Preferred Approach documents set out proposals for the future development of the town and they include a masterplan that shows the proposed location of differing types of buildings and land uses including homes, shops, community facilities and open spaces. In the consultation documents we provide details of evidence and background reports that support the Cranbrook work and we also have a schedule of potential future policies for Cranbrook development and a sustainability appraisal.

The feedback we receive from this consultation will help inform production of a formal development plan document (or DPD) for the town that we hope to produce and consult on in 2018 and then to formally submit for independent examination. You can find out more about the Cranbrook Plan – Preferred Approach, look at supporting documents and find out how to make comments by visiting our web site at:




Do please contact us if you have any queries or would like further information. We would advise that we are contacting you because your details are logged on our planning policy database or you have previously responded to Cranbrook consultation events. If, however, you no longer wish to be contacted by this Council in respect of planning policy documents do please advise us and we will remove your details from our database.”

Yours faithfully
The Cranbrook Team
East Devon District Council

“How a city is tackling poverty by giving a voice to its poorest citizens”

Can’t see this catching on in East Devon, more’s the pity!

“It’s time to change politics,” says the Mayor of Salford, at a packed meeting of the Truth ­Poverty Commission in his home city. “Either politics is done to us, or we shape it.”

Since being elected a year ago, Mayor Paul Dennett has been radically reshaping the way things are done in Salford.

Last month he gave care workers a 10.7% pay rise. His town hall has given the go-ahead for seven new library sites at a time when many councils are closing them.

As other parts of the UK face ­maternity unit closures, the council has stepped in to ‘Keep Babies Born in Salford’ by opening a new midwife-led unit where 300 babies may now be delivered each year.

Salford has also invested £2million into a development company – in order to kickstart building of social housing that won’t fall under the government’s new Right To Buy policy. The company is called Derive – named after a joke involving ­revolutionary Italian situationists.

All of which looks like a blueprint for a Labour government, or what unashamedly interventionist Dennett calls “sensible socialism”.

The 36-year-old mayor is passionate about using his £200million budget to end poverty , partly because he has never forgotten what it feels like to come up the hard way, through a childhood he describes as at times “horrific” and something “I wouldn’t wish on anyone”.

Scarred by domestic abuse and his younger brother’s fight against leukaemia, he failed his GCSEs and A-levels and by 18 was working in a “sweat shop” call centre.

“I had an interesting journey,” he says wryly, at his offices in Swinton. “I grew up in a family where there was traumatic violence and abuse. My dad became an alcoholic and I struggled at school in my early teens.”

A power station fitter by trade, Paul’s dad went on to manage The Engine pub in Liverpool’s Prescot area, where his alcoholism began. Paul’s mum, a cleaner, ran the pub as her marriage disintegrated.

Later in life, Paul won a place to study International Business at the University of Ulster, where he achieved a first-class honours degree. He went on to Manchester ­Business school before doing a PhD at Manchester Met, working as a civil servant and then for a utilities company.

Now living in Salford – where he became a tenants’ leader and then a local councillor – as council leader he sees the Truth Poverty Commission as part of a new way of doing politics, with people’s consent.

Based on a model that has been used in Glasgow and Leeds, the Commissioners include people with experience of poverty.

“Consultation usually means organisations telling you about their plans,” says community worker Jayne Gosnall, 54, who is recovering from alcohol addiction. “This is about really listening to people with experience.”

The Commission is independent but supported by Salford City Council, the Mayor and the Bishop of Salford, and facilitated by Church Action on Poverty and Community Pride. It has led to the council bringing in a raft of measures that will transform lives – from waiving birth certificate fees for homeless people to changing the way the council chases debt.

Debbie Brown, transformation director at Salford City Council, says: “We come into these meetings and we hug each other – that’s not what normally happens in council meetings,” she says. “But the other thing that stopped me in my tracks was the City Council being identified as a cause of poverty.

“We heard stories about what it was like for people hiding from council tax collection agents, people being afraid, and that’s not a city I recognise.

“We’re changing a lot already. We’re going back to the personal, identifying people who are struggling to pay and looking again at what we can do.

“We won’t be using bailiffs for those in receipt of council tax reduction and young care leavers are exempt.”

Laura Kendall, 33, a mum of two and a youth worker, suffered undiagnosed mental health problems as a teenager and was placed in care.

“Sharing my story for this project was difficult but very powerful for me,” she says. “I want people to know their voices will be heard, that a child growing up in the care system can have a better chance.

“I’d spent my whole life trying to get people to listen to me and got used to being rejected. This area has been written off so many times but it’s full of people with something to add.”

Salford’s mayor is determined to listen. “This is about working-class communities coming together and a spirit of solidarity,” Dennett says. “It’s the spirit of Salford in action.”


Poorer Devon council refuses to merge with richer council which agreed to own council tax rise to take it over!

Definitely Devon!

Poorer West Devon District Council agreed to talks with richer South Hams District Council. A consultation showed that a majority of people in both districts were against the move, which would have seen the South Ham council tax rise to match that of (more sparsely populated) West Devon. Both councils have large Conservative majorities.

South Hams District Council agreed last night to merge with its poorer neighbour. But, in a surprise move, again last night, West Devon voted not to merge!

It appears councillors in West Devon feared a loss of autonomy (and their jobs?) and felt that other avenues for making up a £1 milion plus shortfall had not been sufficiently examined.

Owl feels there is a very complex political back story here!

“Plans for two Devon district councils to merge are off.

South Hams and West Devon councils already share some services but proposed a full merger, saying it would mean £500,000 in savings annually.

Last night, members of South Hams authority voted in favour of the proposals, despite the fact it would have meant higher council tax bills for its residents – a £25 increase a year for three years.

But, in a surprising twist, West Devon councillors voted against, even though it’s the poorer authority.

It leaves it needing to find another way to plug a £1m projected black hole in its finances.”


“Axe Valley health hub plan launched as campaigners fight hospital sell off”

“Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley. …

[Independent East Devon Alliance] County councillor Martin Shaw [Seaton and Colyton] said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

Mayor of Seaton, Cllr Jack Rowland, said that a meeting to set up a steering committee for an Axe Valley Health Hub would take place shortly.

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital.

Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley.

In August, a vigil was held outside Seaton Hospital as the beds inside the hospital were closed, as protesters waved banners, shouted “shame”, and expressed their anger and sadness outside Seaton Hospital as the controversial closures of community hospitals began.

Plans to remove the beds from Exeter, Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton community hospitals have been met with strong opposition since they were confirmed in March.

The North, East and West (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the move will see more people being given care at home and save £2.6million.

Although the battle to save the hospital beds has been lost, a new campaign though has been set up in the Axe Valley area to support the development of a health hub in the region.

County councillor Martin Shaw said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital. ‘Don’t let anyone say the hospital is closed’, he said.

The meeting, chaired by Paul Arnott of the East Devon Alliance, agreed that it was necessary to establish which health services could most usefully be based in Seaton and Axminster hospitals, and this might involve canvassing the views of local residents and a number of people present offered to help with this.

The meeting decided to set up a new Axe Valley Hospitals Campaign to support the development of a health hub around the two hospitals and to oppose any proposals to sell off hospital sites.”


Is a new, powerful supra-regional authority being created without public consultation?

Owl says: yes!

On 1 January 2018, a new “Joint Committee” will come into being.

It is charged with delivery of a “productivity strategy” for the whole Devon and Somerset area.

For its (sinister?) aims and objectives, see section 1.3 here:


Truly, we live in disturbing times as NONE of this has had ANY public consultation, yet, at EDDC, it will be decided on the nod at its Cabinet meeting on 1 November 2017:

Some really worrying points:

In Section 2.2 it says that the joint committee can at any time extend its powers as it sees fit.

Section 9.2 says a simple majority of votes will decide actions [the membership will be overwhelmingly Tory]

Section 12.0 Chief Executives and Monitoring Officers will be able to add items to the agenda.


The new “joint authority” authority consists of:


Dartmoor National Park Authority
Devon County Council
East Devon District Council
Exeter City Council
Exmoor National Park Authority
Mendip District Council
Mid Devon District Council
North Devon Council
Plymouth City Council
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset County Council
South Hams District Council
South Somerset Council
Torbay Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Teignbridge District Council
Torridge District Council
West Devon Borough Council
West Somerset Council


Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group
NHS South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group
NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group


Northern Ireland: “Planned cuts to health service could face legal challenge”

In England no unions seem to be doing this. In Devon our Tory councillors would not even refer cuts to the Secretary of State (as they have a legal right to do) in case it upset him but no union has responded.

Where is the anger that seems to be more prevalent in Northern Ireland, whose coffers have recently been boosted by the promise of £1 billion from the English Tory party (paid for by us) to keep them in power, some of which will no doubt go to health services?

“Plans to cut millions of pounds from health services in Northern Ireland could face a legal challenge from trade unionists.

Extra money has been found from within the wider public sector to limit cuts to front line services which once threatened to reduce the number of hospital beds and delay operations. But a union representing thousands of healthcare workers urged trusts responsible for implementing the savings to challenge the Department of Health. Unison said: “If you do not do so, we will challenge you using all legal means at our disposal, a process that has already begun through the complaint Unison has submitted to the trust for the major breaches of your equality duties.”

Senior representatives of the union attended public meetings of trust boards across Northern Ireland on Friday. They told board members: “You are meant to act as guardians of the health service as members of this Trust Board.
“Today, we are repeating our call to you to stand with us to challenge the lack of funding for proper health and social services in Northern Ireland.
“You have seen over the past six weeks that we are prepared to fight for it, and the public is prepared to fight for it. “It is time that this Board, both executive and non-executive alike, demonstrated that you too are prepared to fight for the public you are appointed to serve.”

Trust boards are tasked with drawing up detailed plans for achieving any savings proposed by the Department. The Department has said extra funding announced recently will reduce the projected £70 million savings needed by the end of the financial year. Of the proposed £31 million adjustment affecting front line services only £3 million will now be required, the Department has said in a letter to health trusts. The rest will be found from less visible or back office services, termed “low impact” by the department, which do not affect the public as directly.

But unions have expressed deep unease about the plan. A statement from the Department said it noted Unison’s comments but the position remained as set out in the letter to trusts.

The South Eastern Health Trust agreed to go ahead with low or no impact proposals in its savings plan. It said the additional money had allowed the board to “step away” from major or controversial proposals in the plan.
“However, the meeting heard that while this additional funding will offset some of the current budgetary pressures, the underlying financial challenge has not gone away. “The savings agreed today are mostly non-recurrent so the Trust will be faced with finding significant savings in the years to come, whilst demand for services increases as people live longer and chronic conditions increase.”

Chief executive Hugh McCaughey said it was absolutely essential that we move forward with the transformation of our health and social care system.
“We must use the months ahead to discuss publicly how we better use the significant levels of funding already available for health and social care, and develop a model of healthcare which is sustainable and affordable.”

Controversial proposals which will not now go ahead included a £2 million reduction in locum doctor and agency staff spending. Those given the green light include:

Slowing the transfer of services to the new ward block in the Ulster Hospital;

Replacing agency and locum with in-house staff;

Savings in administrative and management areas like staff travel

Introduction of car parking charges at Ards Hospital”