I am unconvinced of the merits of the idea to give opposition parties in Southend-on-Sea the chair and vice-chair of the three scrutiny committees. This has given UKIP a platform, something I am far from comfortable about. It has also denied some members of the Joint Administration the possibility of a role. This change is being written into the Constitution, which means that if should ever become the opposition then we will benefit, but with the whole structure of Cabinet and the scrutiny system to come under review it is possible that this change may only be in place for a short period. The Independent Group and the Liberal Democrats both appear to want a return to the old committee system, and whilst their votes alone will not be enough it is not impossible to envisage them being able to persuade others.
And on to last night’s two hours and twenty minute People Scrutiny Committee. There was an item on Southend Primary Schools’ Falling Grammar School Entry Figures. The debate began some two years ago with my questioning the statistics and make inquiries. However, whilst I think the grammar should be made to serve the communities in which they reside, my real hope is for universal comprehensive education in the borough.
I asked a question about the statistics included in the Partners in Adoption Annual Report which showed that we were below target, although better than the national average, as regards to placing adoptees and adopters together. This prompted Cllr James Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) to state that he hoped we will not become target driven. I find this somewhat ironic; the targets are set by Government, a Conservative-led Government.
There was an update from the NHS Southend CCG regarding access to treatments and the Service Restriction Policy. The spokesperson made one very important statement “any needed treatment will be funded”. I hope I do not have to remind the CCG of this public commitment in the months ahead.
The spokesperson denied there was a postcode lottery as regards to treatment. He had no data to back this up (making it a somewhat empty statement) and seemed to suggest that data may not be possible to produce. I did request some evidence, and this was promised. Watch this space.
The portfolio holder for Adult Social Care, Health & Housing left early, which prompted Cllr Lesley Salter (Conservative, Belfairs) to make at least three references to it during the CCG debate. I know that some preach about repetition for emphasis, which maybe why Cllr Salter kept noting that “it was a shame the portfolio was not here to answer these questions”.
This morning I received notification about the following article: CCGs restricting patient access to ‘vital’ operations – RCS.
I wanted our scrutiny project to tackle the thorny subject of health inequalities across the borough. This was a somewhat unsatisfactory debate that as far as I could tell left the matter up in the air.