Councillors Bicker Over Committee Places

07:08 Tuesday 19th June 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A meeting has been held to discuss how the health services which will be inherited by Peterborough City Council next year will be dealt with in the future. The Council will run some of the services currently being operated by NHS Peterborough, when the Trust is abolished next year. Well Nick Sandford is Leader of the LibDems. He was at yesterday’s meeting. We need to start by simplifying this and clarifying it. What services will the City Council be running when it comes over to them next year?
NICK SANDFORD: Good morning Paul. What’s happening is there’s going to be a split really. The Primary Care Trust is being abolished from April 2013. The commissioning services that the Primary Care Trust used to fulfil will go to these new GP consortia, whereas the actual public health responsibilities, that’s the development of a public health strategy, control of drugs, that sort of thing, that will go over to Peterborough City Council. And that aspect of it is something I very much support.
PAUL STAINTON: What are you unhappy about then?
NICK SANDFORD: Well, one of the arguments for public health coming under local authority control was to make the whole thing more democratic and more accountable. Because Primary Care Trusts, their members were appointed by the Secretary of State. They quite often used to meet in private. There was lots of concern about their financial control, and that sort of thing. So the idea of local authorities taking it on was to open it up to public accountability. What Peterborough City Council seem to have been doing, they’ve been running a shadow health board for a couple of months. They’ve been meeting in secret. That was the first meeting that was held earlier this week that was held in public. But what they’ve also done is rather than having representatives on the Health and Wellbeing Board from all political parties, so as to get all shades of opinion represented, they just picked four Members of the Cabinet. As normal, Marco’s got it under his thumb. He’s the Chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board. And he’s chosen three other Members of his Cabinet to be the Council people.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it because they’re the right people for the job?
NICK SANDFORD: Well they’re Cabinet Members with some responsibilities, but he’s actually got four. There are a number of different bodies represented on the Health and Wellbeing Board. There’s representatives of the medical profession, that sort of thing. But the Council’s got four representatives. And really what I’m arguing, what the Liberal Democrats are arguing, is that as with all Council committees, the Council representation should be proportional so we get all shades of opinion represented.
PAUL STAINTON: This is happening all round the city now, isn’t it, with Neighbourhood Councils, everybody wants a slice of the action in proportion to the councillors they’ve got on the Council.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. To be fair to Marco, he does say he’s committed to introducing Neighbourhood Councils. But he’s not really given them any power and responsibility. He’s kept everything under his control. His personal responsibilities have actually increased quite significantly. And these Health and Wellbeing Boards have some really big responsibilities. They’ve got to develop a public health strategy. And certainly we in the Liberal Democrats think that should be a fairly wide-ranging thing. It should include things like access to green space. If you leave it in the hands of the medical profession, the professionals, it’s all going to be about drug dispensing. We need to think in a much greater area.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we asked somebody from the Conservatives to come on. Instead they sent us the perfunctory statement.
“We are preparing for the transfer of public health services back to the City Council. The Health and Wellbeing Board was established in line with the requirements of the Health and Social Care Act, and its membership reflects the guidance.” This is their statement. “The four Cabinet Members who sit on the Board have been included at this early stage because of their Cabinet portfolio areas. However in time we will, we have discussed the possibility of other elected Members sitting on the Board, regardless of party or political membership”.
So it sounds like down the line they may look at this.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes well I’m talking to the Council Solicitors about this. Because the Council constitution does say that all Council committees must be proportional to the composition of the Council. And as far as I can see this is essentially a Council committee.