Month: April 2012

SHOCK AT LACK OF CONCERN ON THREATS OF A&E CLOSURE

Council debate reveals uncaring Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors
23.4.12

Plans to close local accident and emergency units were debated by councillors in Kensington and Chelsea. Observers were shocked at last Wednesday’s Council meeting when Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors rejected a Labour proposal supporting the retention of full accident and emergency Services across west London and condemning secret discussions about cuts and changes to west London’s health care services that won’t be revealed until after the May 3 Mayoral and GLA elections.
Labour Councillor Robert Atkinson, who proposed the resolution, commented: “I would never claim that any aspect of the NHS is beyond improvement, but the idea of closing emergency departments across west London when Londoners, especially those without cars or really accessible doctors’ surgeries, cannot easily get emergency health care, is outrageous. We need more, not fewer, walk-in services and if we go ahead and close or downgrade emergency services at the St Mary’s, Hammersmith, Charing Cross or Chelsea and Westminster hospitals, people will die”.
Councillor Pat Healy, Labour spokeswoman on health, added: “we are supposed to be in a period of ‘pre-consultation’ consultation, which means that professional people are summoned to semi-secret and expensive meetings at places like Lords Cricket Ground to decide on reorganisations and closures behind closed doors. This is treating patients like children and stifles debate to prevent it becoming a key issue before the London-wide elections on 3 May”.
These semi-secret meetings have been told that it will take up to 58 minutes longer by car to get to the nearest A&E if these closures go ahead. Ambulance journeys will take 6 – 23 minutes longer. Cllr Healy said: “we were told that people ‘may have to travel longer but they will get better care when they arrive’ – well yes, but only if they survive the journey.’
Ken Livingstone and Labour’s GLA team have made some very sensible suggestions about the strategic health needs of Londoners and the importance of involving voters in the debate so that they can make their wishes clear. The silence from both Boris Johnson and the Tory and Lib Dem councillors in Kensington and Chelsea speaks volumes.”

Advertisements

‘A LIGHT TOUCH WILL NOT PROTECT OUR CHILDREN’

Labour Opposition Group appalled at Council decision not to tighten standards regime in wake of second child pornography case

After a bad-tempered Council meeting on 18 April,  Labour opposition councillors have expressed their disgust and shame at the ruling Conservative group’s decision to dilute further the Council’s standards regime rather than introduce additional protections proposed by Labour. Changes to the standards regime are required as from 1 July under the Localism Act.

In the wake of the conviction of former Conservative councillor Andrew Lamont on child and animal pornography charges, Labour argued that it was essential to introduce a more robust system in Kensington and Chelsea to address any possible similar situations.

Lamont, who was convicted and placed on the sex offenders’ register on 2 April, told the Tory Leader and Whip in November 2010 that he was facing accusations of downloading extreme pornography and that obscene magazines had been found in the house by his wife. The Council leadership kept these accusations quiet in view of his protestations of innocence. Almost a year later, Lamont resigned the day before he went to Court. In the meantime he was allowed to continue as a member of the Council, including an appointment as governor of a nursery school.

The Opposition challenged the secrecy Lamont had enjoyed, first through the standards committee and subsequently on review, but were told that the Council had followed the procedures correctly. However, they remain firmly of the view that the failure to address the situation immediately had brought the Council into disrepute.

After Lamont’s conviction, Labour restated their concerns, citing the action of the Mayor of London, who required a colleague in a similar position to resign immediately and in advance of any prosecution. Labour’s view is that more robust standards are now necessary in Kensington and Chelsea to protect vulnerable residents and children.

However, rejecting Labour attempts to tighten up the regime, Council Leader Sir Merrick Cockell insisted that a ‘sensible light touch’ is all that is needed, with Deputy Leader Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown claiming that it was ‘not until Lamont was charged with a criminal offence that any decision could be made’.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘we are shocked that this Council, which has faced three resignations of Conservative councillors in less than two years on matters relating to child pornography, has nevertheless decide to dilute rather than strengthen its standards regime. We have to question whether the leadership understands the importance of robust child protection in this age of social media.”  Deputy Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘A light touch will not protect our children. The council must review these procedures, and do it now.’

Former Tory Councillor found guilty at last

STOP PRESS, UPDATE 19.4.12

At the full Council meeting on 18.4.12 the Labour Opposition Group proposed an amendment to a Tory proposal about a new Standards regime. In our opinion, given the huge reputational damage done to the Council by the Lamont case, a new regime would have to provide every possible legal protection with transparent and impartial scrutiny by a panel of independents. We proposed a regime that should then be put out to public consultation so that K&C residents could comment, have genuine input, and feel that the Council has learnt its lessons and that in future any Councillor facing possible criminal charges would be suspended until justice had taken its course. This would be in sharp contrast to the Lamont case, where the charges were kept quiet for nearly a year, and the Councillor remained in post (though not undertaking his responsibilities), and remained as Council-appointed governor of a nursery, until the day before he went to Court.  

Incredibly this entirely sensible proposal was voted down, with senior Tory Councillors recommending ‘a light touch’, which is frankly bizarre and potentially puts the Council in an impossible situation were a similar situation to recur. Shame on the Royal Borough.

 

The Kensington and Chelsea Labour Opposition Group will not comment on the outcome of this criminal trial, except to say that  justice has taken its course and former Cllr Lamont has been found guilty of some of the charges he was accused of, that relate to child and animal porn.

 

However, the Labour Group believes it is time for the Council to review the procedures and protocols covering Councillors who may face criminal charges. As in any other area of public life, a person who has been arrested and faces possible criminal charges should immediately be requested formally to withdraw from his or her duties. This can be done either by resignation or by an agreed suspension of duties. It is simply not enough, as in the case of former Councillor Lamont, to make a private agreement that the individual ceases to attend meetings.

 

The Labour Group challenged the Council leadership through the Standards Committee, and subsequently at appeal, suggesting that existing procedures were not followed, the Code of Conduct was breached and as a consequence the Council had been brought into disrepute. The Standards Committee response, given on 28 February, stated that no further action would be taken as the Council had followed its existing procedures correctly. The response said that the Committee ‘could not establish how matters might have been handled differently, however unsatisfactory this might have appeared to other Members or members of the public’.

 

However, the implication of this decision is that, should any other Councillor be arrested and face possible charges and subsequent conviction, the alleged criminal could remain as an active Councillor until the day before s/he goes to Court.

 

Labour Leader Judith Blakeman said: ‘Residents expect more of the Council. There must now be a thorough review of procedures to put a more transparent process in place. Allowing a possible criminal to stay in post for almost a year and keep it secret until the day before he was charged is simply not good enough.’

 

Deputy Leader Cllr. Emma Dent Coad said: ‘Kensington and Chelsea’s lack of action contrasts badly with the Mayor of London, who faced a similar situation and demanded the immediate resignation of his colleague. The Council says it prides itself on openness and transparency; it must live up to this ideal or suffer the consequences at the ballot-box ’.

 

Further information from: Emma Dent Coad 07773 792736.