Charing Cross Hospital outpatients judged “inadequate” – as was St Mary’s A&E

The chief inspector of hospitals has recently reported on local hospitals Care Quality Commission. The report on Queen Charlotte’s in Du Cane Road concludes it is “good”.

However Hammersmith Hospital, Charing Cross and St Mary’s Paddington are each given the verdict “requires improvement”.

Within those overall judgments there are some wide variations. For instance the A&E at Charing Cross was rated “good” while the Oupatients service was judged “inadequate”.

For St Mary’s the Critical Care and Maternity and gynaecology were both rated “good” but the A&E “inadequate.”

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust chief executive Dr Tracey Batten said:

“While we are disappointed with our overall rating of ‘requires improvement’, we think the report is extremely constructive. It clearly sets out our challenges while also recognising the positive impact of our work over the past year and highlighting the great care that we already provide.

“We acknowledge that there are a few areas, such as cleanliness in St Mary’s A&E, that have simply not been acceptable and there can be no excuse for that. But we want to assure patients that this is the exception and that we have acted immediately to address the most pressing issues raised. For example, we have already put in extra staff support and refurbished the A&E at St Mary’s Hospital – with new flooring and lighting, more sinks and additional cleaning rotas. The CQC has now re-inspected St Mary’s A&E and has confirmed that the required improvements have been made.”

The Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter highlighted the contrasting verdicts on the A&E departments and saying it showed plans to close the A&E at Charing Cross are wrong. The problem with this point is that there are no such plan. The NHS have made clear that there will continue to be a full A&E department at Charing Cross. Mr Slaughter is full aware of this yet he persists with spreading the allegation. That makes him a liar.

But there is another point. The good news is that the local NHS failings have been exposed, detailed recommendations published to put them right and those measures are being taken – or indeed have already been taken.

How has this come about? How do we know what is going on? It is because this Government introduced this level of transparency. They introduced the post of Chief Inspector of Hospitals to act as whistleblower-in-chief and produce these reports. That came about after the scandal at Mid Staffs Hospital – when the mentality was one of “cover up” rather than facing up to problems and dealing with them. Disgracefully poor care continued for years because of a lack of transparency and accountability. That was the way the NHS was run when Andy Burnham was Health Secretary.

Andrew Slaughter voted against the legislation last year to establish a chief inspector of hospitals who could provide independent information about the quality of services. Now he is quoting from information that would have been suppressed had he won that vote. He should apologise for that desist from his scaremongering. No matter how frequently he repeats it that doesn’t make the lie about the Charing Cross A&E closing true.

Generous grant settlement for Hammersmith and Fulham Council – so will Labour honour their tax cut pledge?

The Government has announced a generous grant settlement to Hammersmith and Fulham Council. When all the revenue sources are added together the Council will £199.68 million for its General fund spending in 2015/16. This compares with £209.43 million for 2014/15. So that is a cut in the total “spending power” of just 4.7 per cent. Those figures assume the Council tax is frozen. That would actually mean increased revenue from it as the base in wider (there are more homes). So the revenue would rise from £51.37 million to £51.88 million. The main Government grant will be £103.57 million.

If the Council tax is frozen or cut there will be an extra £0.62 million in Government grant in recognition of this.

Labour were elected on a pledge to cut the Council Tax – and to do so at a faster rate than was managed under the Conservatives. That would imply a cut of over three per cent (which was the typical level achieved under the Conservatives). So if they keep their promise and include a Council Tax cut of, say, four per cent that would mean extra savings needed of £2.07 million – or around one per cent of the total budget.

That would be perfectly achievable and I hope that pledge is honoured. If it is then it will show the important success in shifting the parameters of debate in this borough. After the election the pledge was modified “to reduce taxes” but not specifying that this would be at a faster pace. There was also a Labour pledge to cut parking charges – which they described as a “stealth tax”.

Their undertaking  to cut spending by £20 million a year would allow a much bigger Council Tax cut – even after absorbing the lower Government grant – but I would be surpirsed if that is delivered.

One longer term problem could come with the Labour council’s hostility to allowing new homes to be built. The New Homes Bonus for 2015/16 will be £5.7 million. There is a time lag between planning approval for new homes and the new homes actually being built. But eventually the New Homes Bonus grant will fizzle out under the current planning policies. There could also be some trouble with the £20.86 million Public health grant. This is supposed to be “ring fenced” specifically for public health improvements. The council has raided it for funding voluntary groups – which was already being paid out of the Council’s general budget. I’m not sure the rules will allow this.

The council’s budget is due to be published on Monday January 5th.

Unemployment falling across Hammersmith and Fulham

Some really good news with the latest unemployment figures today which show a fall across Hammersmith and Fulham. Here are the figures for each ward – the first column being JSA claimants in October. The second the claimants last month.

The total for the borough is now 2,982. In May 2010 it was 4,910.

Addison  190 188

Askew  393 377

Avonmore and Brook Green  141 140

College Park and Old Oak  253 230

Fulham Broadway  177 170

Fulham Reach  131 119

Hammersmith Broadway 195 180

Munster  86 84

North End 150 141

Palace Riverside 45 46

Parsons Green and Walham  91 90

Ravenscourt Park 122 113

Sands End  229 228

Shepherd’s Bush Green 385 351

Town 146 136

Wormholt and White City 413 389

Total  3,147 2,982

Scandal of Labour dodging fees for room bookings at town hall

The Labour Party have been holding meetings at Hammersmith Town Hall without paying the required booking fees. On some evenings they have booked out every meeting room for different ward branches – including wards where they have no councillors.

There is a serious matter in a democracy. Council resources should not be used to subsidise one party rather than another. The Conservatives have also used the town hall for meetings but have paid the full fee.

It is reasonable for councillors, when discussing council business, to use a room at the town hall without paying – whether for the Conservative Group or Labour Group. The issue is that the Labour PARTY have been using rooms without payment (sometimes several rooms in one evening) for Party activists to discuss campaigning/wider Party business. Especially given the Conservatives have paid up for meetings of that nature.

The problem arose due to an internal booking system which relied on those making the bookings to state if a fee was due. The system was based on trust – and Labour proved themselves untrustworthy.

Jane West the Director of Finance tells me that “charges for room bookings have been made to both political parties in the past but not in a particularly efficient way.”

That is a diplomatic way of putting it. It would have been rather more efficient if Labour had paid what they owe rather than evading.

Jane adds “in future, when either the local Conservative Party or the local Labour Party wish to book one of the Committee Rooms, and the attendees for the  meeting are mainly H&F councillors, we will not be making a charge for the booking. The rooms can be booked through the self-service system on the intranet.”

She has offered the Conservatives a rebate. But wouldn’t it be better for the Council Taxpayer if the Labour Party coughed up the fees owed for the vast amount of room bookings they have made for party political, rather than council business?

Finally! Work gets under way for West London Free School to move to Palingswick House

wlfslogoSome good news. After many frustrating bureaucratic delays building work can now proceed at Palingwick House in King Street to provide a magnificence permanent site for the West London Free School.

The school’s founder Toby Young has signed the contract with Willmott Dixon, the school’s builders.

Toby says:

“This means that Willmott’s can now start the main construction programme and you should begin to see a lot of activity on the site shortly. We have also been given the Council’s blessing to commence the works.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their patience. It’s taken a long time to get here, but we’re finally at the point where construction can begin.”

Labour councillor takes £540 an hour from the Council Taxpayer in allowances

aconnellA Planning Committee due to take place on January 7th has been cancelled. This is the second planning meeting to have been cancelled in the last few months. New home building has been brought to a halt under Labour. The only thing they have achieved is to rename the committee itself in a pointless rebranding exercise.

Cllr Adam Connell, a Labour councillor for Addison Ward is the Chairman of the Planning Committee.  As a result of this he pockets a an extra £5,664.70 as a “Special Responsibility Allowance” on top of his basic allowance of £8,940.

The July 15th meeting lasted 40 minutes.

The September 10th one lasted 2 hours and 7 minutes.

The November 12th one lasted 1 hour 33 minutes.

I gather that the one last week (the first one to actually approve any new homes) went on for around two and half hours. The new homes, of course, offered a “contemporary” (ie ugly) design – intended to please planning officers rather than residents. I don’t blame the applicants for this – they have to meet the “requirements” of the planners. I suspect Cllr Connell is too busy counting his money to take much interest in either how many homes are built or in what they look like.

So, anyway, a total of six hours and 50 minutes for him to sit through.

With the January one cancelled there won’t be another until February 18th. So for those eight months Cllr Connell collects £3,776 – two thirds of the annual allowance – for chairing a meetings for just under seven hours. That comes to £540 an hour.

Since Labour took over they have decided to spray £150,000 of your money at the management consultants Deloitte. Plus another £1.5 million for lawyers and consultants to facilitate the privatisation of the entire council housing.

But even by Labour’s fat cat standards £540 an hour is on the high side.

Of course Cllr Connell, like his Labour colleagues, won election with populist class war, bash the rich, rhetoric….

I have emailed him to ask if he feels justified in continuing to claim his full SRA.