Edwina – do you hear us?

 

Council work is very demanding at the moment and the first two weeks of the month has taken me to County Hall most days and all day.  A letter was published recently stating that the reason some members did not claim expenses was because we did not bother to attend meetings. How wrong the author was.

The harm inflicted on anyone in politics all cllrs by those not so honourable members of the House of Commons has been immense.  Handing out leaflets before Election Day spelt out the mood of contempt towards all things political.  Although many took the leaflet without comment, they soon found their way to a handy litter bin. I am no fan of Gordon Brown but the way Hazel Blears resigned was a disgrace.  Timed to perfection to maximise embarrassment and then that childish “rocking the boat” brooch that she perkily sported whilst smirking broadly whilst wearing a white jacket!  White is not a colour I associate with Hazel.   Recently, she gaily waved her big repayment cheque to assuage the damage of her “flipping” expenses but a fiddle is a fiddle and it seems her constituency party agreed.  Selfish, thoughtless and greedy with no thought of how her behaviour and those of her ‘friends at the trough’, would damage the good work of decent Labour councillors. She was lucky to narrowly avoided de-selection! It is said that some Labour supporters would vote for a donkey!

The morning of Monday 8th was devoted to wrestling with the Capital budget and there are too many demands from bridge repairs to upgrading loos to make the money go round.

Tuesday was a marathon day, with a seminar on Affordable Houses scheduled to start at 9am, followed by a 2pm Council meeting.  A councillor who is given time off by his employer was as unhappy as I was to learn that the seminar was really starting 40 minutes later but no one had told us about the pre-coffee and welcome jolly.  We both muttered how much we could have done with that wasted time.

One Directorate appears unable to offer a programme that shows the true start time which would allow cllrs to duck the coffee session.   Another “false start” occurred at another seminar weeks ago.  Turning up for 9am and then hanging around aimlessly for forty minutes was frustrating!  I live close to Mold!  I feel sorry for cllrs who have miles to travel.

Council on the 9th June was a rather ill tempered affair and the new Chairman; Colin Legg handled his first Council meeting with great skill and firmness. As tempers rose and control began to slip, he stood up.  Etiquette demands that if the Chair stands so must we so we stood too in silent submission.  It was a great piece of chairing.  We were all impressed.  We liked his Chaplain too as prayers are said at the start of every Council meeting,  A good choice of reading and the length of time to prayed was much appreciated by all.

The Council’s capital proposals greatly displeased Labour colleagues & discontent spiralled when late papers prepared to try and make progress turned out to be incomplete and were duly rejected.  Not everyone looked best pleased as it was lots of wasted paper and back to the drawing board.

The NHS Reorganisation & Reform programme created even more frustration particularly from Carol Ellis, Executive Member for Health and Social Services.  She told us that she had not been invited to any consultation meeting. It was clear that the restructuring was steaming ahead under Edwina Hart’s tight control with minimum opportunity for elected members to have a voice in this important change of direction.  A ministerial statement had been made on 29th May that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board will take responsibility for around 675,500 people of Flintshire, Anglesey, Denbighshire Gwynedd, Conwy and Wrexham and will go into shadow mode on 1st June in readiness for a 1st October start date.  Full stop, No argument.  Edwina has spoken.

The Minister has even refused to meet with Cllr Arnold Woolley and our Chief Executive despite receiving a constructive and fully researched letter seeking a meeting.  The Director of Community Services agreed consultation had occurred with her department but Executive Members were not going to be included.  Clearly, no consultation had occurred at Director Level either all very worrying! Who is standing up for us in North Wales! After the Director’s statement, mutterings of discontent echoed round the Chamber. Having been an AM in the first four years of the Assembly, I had been present when Jan Hutt announced the disbandment of the previous (single figure) Health Authorities which would be replicated with 22 Local Health Boards; allegedly at neutral cost.  Actually, the bill was £15m and was a wildly extravagant idea as everything, staff, fax machines etc/ or whatever had to be duplicated 22 times. 

Mrs Hart’s determinations to demolish the Jane Hutt NHS reorganising into 22 new Authorities had only occurred a few years ago and to reduce these units to one huge board to serve North Wales; without full consultation with the experts, beggar’s belief.

Edwina has been powerful since 1999!  She has learnt to deal with the various poisonous chalices handed to her in a forthright way.  This time she appears to do so by trampling over any meaningful consultation process.  She oversaw the building of the Senedd and although that was a challenge which was brought to a successful conclusion, the huge cost for repairs only months after the building opened, was not one of the minister’s best endeavours. The public picked up the bill of course. 

Even the name of this mega health Authority has caused consternation.  Besti was a pioneering Crimean war nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale.  Serious Googleres may dig a little further and unearth something a little spicier about the good nurse!  Rumour abounds that a contagious disease carried her off?  Surely not?

The minister is not infallible!  Turning a deaf ear is not a recipe for success.  The people of North Wales will be infuriated if we bear the brunt of your failure to communicate.  Edwina, listen please! It is a daft and meaningless name that nobody likes.  Surely, you can do better both with the name and with the consultation process?

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