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Stroud Against The Cuts

Our questions for candidates in the 2017 Gloucestershire County Council elections

Friday, 14 April 2017 16:01 administrator
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On Thursday 4th May 2017, there will be elections in Gloucestershire for County Councillors. There are 53 places on the council where elections are being contested. You can find out who is standing for Gloucestershire County Council where you live on the council's website.


While Stroud Against the Cuts could ask many questions of councillors, we have chosen to focus on one of our core areas of campaigning: the NHS (and Social Care).

We are sending the following questions to all candidates and will publicise the results on this website.

In the meantime, you may like to ask candidates who appear at your doorstep or put leaflets through your door these questions. If you receive answers in writing, please send them on to us via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


  1. Do you support the Sustainability and Transformation Plan for NHS Gloucestershire and if (re-)elected what will you to support/improve/oppose its implementation? 
  2. Do you believe the private sector (including Third Sector) has any role in services traditionally provided by the NHS or GP practices, or in loaning or providing capital? If not, what will you do if (re-)elected to: a) prevent further privatisation of services, b) get non-emergency ambulances, community hospital pharmacies and Out of Hours services back into the NHS, c) prevent the use of PFI in Gloucestershire's NHS?
  3. Do you believe that health and social care in Gloucestershire have the funds they need? If (re-)elected, what will you do about funding of these services?
  4. Where integration of NHS and Social Care provision is proposed, will you work to: a) ensure any service previously provided to all remains so and that there is no extension of means-testing, b) oppose any homogenisation of staff employment that reduces terms and conditions?
  5. Will you work with NHS campaigners in Gloucestershire to prevent closures or privatisation of services traditionally provided by the NHS or GP practices, and to oppose cuts and changes that will have negative impacts on patients?
Last Updated ( Friday, 14 April 2017 17:19 )
 

Press Release: Impact of benefit sanctions raised by anti-cuts group

Tuesday, 28 March 2017 11:46 administrator
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Press Release: Impact of benefit sanctions raised by anti-cuts group

Contact: James Beecher 07734 058789

Local campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts will:

1.       Host a screening of “I, Daniel Blake” by Ken Loach at The Prince Albert on Wednesday 29th March, followed by a Q&A (7-9.40pm) – and,

2.       Hold a stall outside Stroud Job Centre Plus on Thursday 30th March to coincide with a National Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions (12noon-2pm, gathering for a photograph at 1pm).


Ken Loach’s film “I, Daniel Blake”[i] – winner of Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs and the Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival will be screened Wednesday 29th March at The Prince Albert in Stroud[ii]. Entry to the film is free, and accompanied by talks about local people in similar situations to those featured in the film from Stroud Against the Cuts, Stroud Citizens Advice and The Homeless Period Gloucestershire. Donations toward the campaigning and support work provided by the organisations will be collected.

The film follows Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) - a 59-year-old widowed carpenter as he navigates the benefits system when a heart attack leaves him unable to work. Despite his doctor's diagnosis, he is denied benefits. As Daniel undertakes an appeal, he develops a bond with a destitute, single mother (Hayley Squires) who's struggling to take care of her two children.

The screening has been arranged ahead of a National Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions, organised by the Unite Community union for people in and out of work[iii]. 100,000 people have had their benefits stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months. Unite Community say “These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as: Arriving minutes late to a meeting, not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job, and missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.” Members of Stroud Against the Cuts will gather outside Stroud Job Centre from 12noon-2pm on Thursday 30th March to hand out information, in solidarity with actions around the country.

James Beecher, spokesperson for Stroud Against the Cuts, said: “Half a million people have had their benefits stopped by sanctions in the past year, many of whom have been plunged into poverty  - unable to heat their homes or even eat. We’ve heard horror stories from people using the local Job Centre, and want to ensure people applying for benefits are aware of their rights, and that more fortunate people in our community are aware of the impact of the government’s policies”

Sally Pickering, chief officer at Stroud Citizens Advice – who will speak before the film screening and answer questions after it, said in January: “There’s definitely been an increased demand for our services. Half of the issues we encounter are money related – we all have them in different forms, many people have never experienced issues with money like debt before but then a life changing experience happens such as divorce or illness and things get out of hand.” [iv]

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 March 2017 11:50 )
 

Questions about Gloucestershire's Children's Centres

Monday, 27 March 2017 08:54 administrator
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An anonymous parent from Bishops Cleeve has passed on the following FOI request regarding the County Council's changes to Children's Centres locally:

Request summary:
I have a number of questions regarding the Targeted Family Support Service and the process that was followed by Gloucestershire County Council to fundamentally change the provision that will be offered going forwards.

Are all of the Children's Centres involved within this change of provision defined as Sure Start Children's Centres, as per the statutory guidance for Children's Centres issued by Department for Education (DFE)?
Would implementation of the new Targeted Family Support Service mean that the definition of Early Childhood Services (as defined within the statutory guidance) would no longer apply going forwards?
Please can you provide details of other legislation that will no longer apply once you move to the new Targeted Family Support Service model?
Does a change in provision from a Sure Start Children's Centre to Early Childhood Services mean that going forwards Gloucestershire County Council will not be bound by other legislation; in particular Childcare Act 2006, sections; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5A, 5C, 5D, 5E and 98C?
Please can you provide further details of how the new Targeted Family Support Service will meet the current statutory duty placed upon local authorities by Section 1 of Childcare Act 2006 to improve the wellbeing of and reduce inequalities between young children?
Please can you confirm how the new model complies with Chapter 2 of the statutory guidance issued by DFE? In particular to 'ensure there are sufficient children's centres, so far as is reasonably practicable, to meet local need.'?
If it is not reasonably practicable for GCC to ensure that there are sufficient children's centres, then please explain why you believe this to be the case?
Please can you provide details of evidence gathered by GCC to demonstrate how the new model will enable you to meet your priority of reducing child poverty (Chapter 3 of statutory guidance issued by DFE)?
What actions have you taken to ensure children's centres offer differentiated support to young children and their families, according to their needs (Chapter 3 of statutory guidance issued by DFE)?
Given that the changes being made are significant and reduce services to the extent that they no longer meet the statutory definition of a Sure Start children's centre (as defined by Chapter 2 of the statutory guidance issued by DFE), please provide further details on how GCC complied with its legal duty to consult?

Please provide details on how any such consultation took into account:

Wider duties under section 17 of the Childcare Act 1989 and the Child Poverty Act 2010?
The views of local families and communities in deciding what is sufficient children's centre provision?
Families crossing local authority borders to use children's centres in their authority?

We aim to respond to your request no later than midnight on 11 April 2017 (the statutory timescale of 20 working days, starting on the working day following receipt of your request). We may need to contact you if the request needs to be clarified; this is to ensure we provide you with the information you require.

If the information you have requested is held by another public authority, we will inform you of this so that you can contact them directly.

Gloucestershire County Council is committed to the principles of information disclosure and will, wherever possible, provide all information requested. However, some information you have requested may not be provided to you; this will only be information that can be withheld by law, and, in most cases, the reason will be explained to you when we send out any information that can be released. We will also inform you as soon as possible if we do not hold the information you have requested.

Our response to your request may be published in our disclosure log, with your personal details removed. Our new disclosure log can be found on our website at: www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/foi<http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/foi>.  In future, you may find that the answer to your questions about the Council has already been published.

 

Campaigners and Councillors raise concerns over plans for Gloucestershire’s NHS

Monday, 27 March 2017 15:51 administrator
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Campaigners and Councillors raise concerns over plans for Gloucestershire’s NHS - PRESS RELEASE

Contact: James Beecher 07734 058789 - photographs available on request

 

On Wednesday 22nd March, campaigners from Stroud Against the Cuts[i] handed 775 signed postcards over to Gloucestershire County Councillors. The postcards – which call on councillors to “speak out against the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) as councillors have done elsewhere” – were collected by the group at its week-long campaign hub and exhibition on Stroud High St in February.[ii]


Councillors from the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats the Green Party’s Councillor Sarah Lunnon raised their concerns about the STP, and Ms Lunnon - who was attending her final Full Council Meeting before she steps down in May – formally delivered the stack of 775 postcards to Gloucestershire County Council Leader Mark Hawthorne (Conservative, Quedgeley).

 

The 775 postcards were signed by individuals who say they are “deeply concerned” about the £226 million of savings in the plan. Campaigners also raise questions over “a £100m million hole in the capital budget”, saying “The only answers as to how this hole will be filled are hints that the county’s hospital assets will be sold off, or handed over to ‘third party developers’/PFI.”

 

The number of signed postcards collected in an empty shop in Stroud in one week (775) is higher than the number of responses to Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group’s formal questionnaire for the public, which formed part of its three-month, county-wide  “engagement campaign” (638).[iii] Stroud Against the Cuts members said the questionnaire was confusing, and that the issues of cuts, potential closures and possible privatisation of services were not communicated.

 

James Beecher, spokesperson for Stroud Against the Cuts, said: “We don’t know what the feedback to the formal consultation process on the STP looks like yet, but 638 responses to the 6,250 guides the CCG sent out can’t be considered to demonstrate public support for the plans. By contrast, in just a week we were able to collect 775 postcards from deeply concerned people. If we’d collected for longer, or had any budget to collect responses, we know we could have collected signatures from many more than 775 people who do not believe services in Gloucestershire can sustain a further £226 million of cuts, and who are worried about further privatisation of NHS services.

 

Christine Stockwell of Stroud Against the Cuts added: “In our view the poor response to the consultation reflects the lack of detail in the STP which made it very difficult for people to make meaningful responses because they have not been provided with the detail of changes to services, how they would be reconfigured, whether they would be rationed or cut. The STP was couched in jargon which most members of the public would be unfamiliar with, and it did not give specifics or examples to illustrate what was meant.  There was no reasonable basis for public to properly assess the proposals. For a plan that could change the shape of our local NHS so dramatically, this is not good enough.”

 

Cllr Lesley Williams (Labour, Stonehouse) said: “I am thoroughly concerned about what the STP means for the NHS in Gloucestershire. We are already seeing the effects of seven years of austerity measures, and I am worried about what could happen to all our local NHS services.  Councilors have been kept in the dark, as have residents, over the STP, but we will not stop until we know what it means for all of us."

 

Cllr Sarah Lunnon (Green, Stroud Central) noted that the UK spends less on healthcare than many other European countries. She continued "rather than looking at ways to reduce even further the amount spent per head via the STP, investing in un-proven IT and reducing local community service, Government, both local and national needs to address the growing issues of social care and life style diseases - so we remain health and are safe and protected when we need help". Cllr Lunnon added "The STP is a cloak for hospital closures and service cuts and it is unfortunate that the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council has endorsed this strategy with what appears to be a £100M funding gap - unless of course he knows something which Councillors don't".

 

Joe Harris (Liberal Democrat, Cirencester Park) said: "I'm growing increasingly concerned that the STPs will mean cuts to local NHS services such as our community hospitals, we've already seen Cirencester and Stroud Hospital's overnight Minor Injury Units closed. STPs should protect and enhance local services as the NHS adapts to deal with an ageing population."

 


[i] Stroud Against the Cuts is a community group started in November 2010. In 2011-12 it led a successful campaign to prevent community health services in Gloucestershire being handed to a so-called ‘social enterprise’ outside the NHS. For more information: www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk

[iii] Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group shared the following recently: “In order to raise public awareness about Gloucestershire’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), activity so far has included:

  • 6,250 STP short guides have been distributed across the county
  • social media stories about STP themes have reached 15,306 people
  • there have been 10,749 hits on the STP website


There has also been a 3 month engagement campaign which concluded last Saturday: this included the following:

  • there were more than 50 drop-in events / information sessions across the county, giving 1,224 members of the public the opportunity to air their thoughts about the STP
  • 638 people completed the STP questionnaire
  • social media activity regarding the engagement activity reached 44,146 people

the feedback is currently being analysed with details to follow”

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 27 March 2017 15:54 )
 

Letter to local papers re: NHS exhibition and Gloucestershire STP

Monday, 20 March 2017 10:43 administrator
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The letter below was published in the Stroud News & Journal as "Reader's Letter: ‘Thanks for coming to hub’":


We would like to express our thanks to everyone who attended our NHS exhibition and campaign hub on Stroud High St from February 4th-11th. We wanted to raise awareness about the Gloucestershire NHS five-year “Sustainability and Transformation Plan”, which claims that – through partnership between the County Council and local health bosses in the Clinical Commissioning Group - a plan has been made to provide more joined up care to meet people’s needs more effectively despite huge funding pressures. SATC believes that cuts to services and sell offs are being hidden as the plan demands £226 million of savings and there is a £100 million hole in the capital budget, the local share of a national £22 billion gap in funding provided and the estimated requirement.

 

Our “Hands Off our NHS” postcard asks all County Councillors to robustly defend Gloucestershire NHS services against further loss of hospital beds and services by opposing the local plan and the government’s underfunding of the NHS and social care. The plans are a fantasy wish list, heavily dependent on the NHS spending large sums on IT, with no guarantees about the future of our hospitals, and with no evidence to back them up. Although the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council is a signatory to the plan, financial and other details have not been made available to the public or even to our elected representatives. We fear that information is being withheld because of the County Council elections which are happening in May - not having the detail is a significant restraint on the democratic process.

 

Health Campaigns Together – joint organisers of the national protest in London this Saturday, believe that “by trying to engage local authorities into signing off  STPs, NHS England has for the first time opened up the possibility of forcing some accountability” (through our elected councillors). We urge our County Councillors to speak out, and are encouraging our Gloucestershire politicians to follow the example of those in other areas who have successfully opposed their local STPs.

 

This government is making a political choice to underfund the NHS, to close and privatise services and to reduce our access to healthcare as the system becomes more like the disastrous one in America. We hope people will join us on the coach to London or at our stall on Kings St at 12 noon this Saturday to show their support for a publicly-funded, publicly-owned NHS providing comprehensive, universal care on the basis of need not ability to pay, and to demonstrate their opposition to this government’s policies.

 

Yours,

Caroline Molloy, Editor of ourNHS openDemocracy campaigning journalism website, and James Beecher, Chris Stockwell, Hannah Basson, Stroud Against the Cuts

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 20 March 2017 12:10 )
 


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