Darren Fower on the NHS Peterborough Deficit

Darren Fower LibDem councillor reports back from the emergency meeting of the Peterborough City Council Scrutiny Commission for Health Services to discuss the current NHS Peterborough deficit and projected cuts of £27 million. Broadcast at 07:10 on Tuesday 30th March 2010 in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Peterborough.

PS: Now how does a Primary Care Trust overspend by nearly twelve million quid? Well we’ve tried to find out over the last few weeks. But that’s what Peterborough’s Liberal Democrats asked at yesterday’s emergency health scrutiny meeting at the Town Hall. They want answers following NHS Peterborough’s staggering overspend on last year’s budget. Last week we spoke to Chairman of the Board councillor Marco Cereste and we asked him if he was happy with his performance as Chairman. Of course he said he wasn’t happy, and we asked him as well if he could .. if he would like to consider his future as Chairman of the Board, and he said he would be considering that future. Darren Fower is Leader of Peterborough LibDems, and he called for the meeting and joins us on the phone now. Morning Darren.
DF: Good Morning Paul.
PS: You heard what Marco had to say on the phone last week. Obviously he wasn’t happy with his own performance. In fact, we can remind you of what Marco had to say. (TAPE)
MC: No I’m not happy with the job that I’ve done as NHS Peterborough. I am terribly disappointed that after twenty five years of virtually perfect perfect service to this city, we’ve had a situation where we just .. you know .. the forecasting in what the costs of health care would be in the city was so .. got so terribly wrong. (LIVE)
PS: Yes. So he was unhappy with his performance, you were unhappy with his and the PCT’s performance, and that’s why you called the meeting last night.
DF: Absolutely. The bottom line is everything has to come to an end, and while there may have been previous years where Mr Cereste and the Board have done well, right now it’s quite the opposite, it really is.
PS: So what happened last night, what questions did you ask, and what did you find out?

DF: It won’t surprise you to learn that a lot of good questions were asked, and a lot of poor answers were provided. It’s very disappointing and dare I say it simply endorses the Liberal Democrat view in regards to unelected bodies. As councillors we have thousands of people who have very kindly given their vote to us and support, given us the power to represent them, and ask the questions that they pass to us. These unelected bodies seem incapable of actually providing decent answers.
PS: So you were fobbed off, basically?
DF: Yes. Even the ex-Leader Councillor John Peach, he asked several good questions. I thought to myself, dare I ask the question of the salary that this Interim Chief Executive is on, which I did. And she very kindly pointed out that she was on a special responsibility allowance, but failed to give me any answer as to how much she’s getting paid. Now I pointed out to her that I could then obviously apply through the Freedom of Information Act, but that would be bureaucratic and costly to the local taxpayer. And given that we’re at a meeting to discuss the huge deficit and the failure to manage the finances properly, I thought it would be easier for her simply to answer the question. But she chose not to.
PS: I think that the people of Peterborough have got a right to know how much this person is on.
DF: Absolutely. The bottom line is, the one thing I’ve learned in life is people who have a problem with telling you how much they get paid are either embarrassed, or don’t feel as though they deserve that money.
PS: It’s only a part-time job as well isn’t it? She got another job.
DF: Well we understand she’s .. the contract is for two days a week, but she did sort of indicate that she does more than that, which is good to hear, but I would like to make sure that we’re not in a situation where we’re paying over the odds for a service. Because, like you say the people of Peterborough deserve to know how much money this person is being paid, because it’s their money that’s being used.
PS: Who did they blame it all on then. the debacle, the twelve million overspend? Who did they blame it on at the meeting last night?
DF: The angle they’ve taken is that we shouldn’t worry too much about the problems of the past. We should all be focusing on the future.
PS: Well we are. We’re worried about the future. They can’t get the past right. We’re worried about what the future holds.
DF: Absolutely. It was very embarrassing to be honest. There’s a lot of frustration amongst all councillors at the committee. We have been assured that there will be other meetings taking place, but I do certainly feel as though we are being fobbed off.
PS: And has Marco stepped down. He seemed very unhappy with his performance as Chairman of the PCT. Has he given up?
DF: Well as far as I know he’s still in his paid role. but like you’ve mentioned there his comments in your show previously says it all. And I think it will be no surprise if at the next full council meeting there are calls for him to step down.
PS: But they’ve got an action plan now, so we’ll be alright.
DF: Yes, the action plan I relate to being similar to one of those from the A-Team.
PS: That good eh? Let’s hope they don’t have to get on a plane.
DF: Yes it’s kind of lacking in any information. It’s presented in a tabular format, but as to identifying where the problems lie, they themselves have pointed out there’s going to be another review, of the emergency plan by the Board in the coming weeks. It’s all up in the air still I’m afraid.
PS: So you called for this meeting. We had the meeting. We found out very little. And we don’t really know how we’re going forward.
DF: No. That is basically it, I’m afraid Paul. It is a big shame, because there was a lot of people there with the experience and knowledge that could have been shared, and we could have worked together, whcih is something the Liberal Democrats believe in, working closely with these organisations. But again a good opportunity has been missed.
PS: Well we’ve got Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson on the show just after eight o’clock this morning. We’ll ask his opinion whether he thinks the health service is safe with the current primary care trust and the make-up thereof. What do you think, as a Liberal Democrat?
DF: What do I think of the future? I think it’s very very bleak. I am really concerned that those people who need help will not receive it. And I’m embarrassed dare I say by the organisation, the Primary Care Trust and especially the Board, and somebody has got to be held to account. We’ve already seen the chief executive step down, we’ve already seen the financial director step down, and it looks as though we may need to get something of a hat-trick and ask the chair of the board to stand down.