During the recent County Council Elections one of the most common questions I was asked related in some way to the downgrading of Southend A&E.
Both the Green Party and the Rochford District Residents already felt that these proposals deserved a full airing at Rochford Council’s next meeting, which was to be held on 25 April. We therefore put forward the following motion, which was also signed by members of the Lib Dems and UKIP Groups. The Conservative Group did not sign.
‘This Council wishes to, and agrees to, invite the local NHS organisations to undertake presentations at a Full Council or a special additional Full Council on the proposed changes, particularly to A&E provision and Elective Surgery location and capacity, no later than 14 days before the closure of any public consultation arranged by the NHS.
Notwithstanding the above Full Council agrees to have a full debate at a Full Council or a special additional Full Council on the proposed changes no later than 14 days before the closure of any public consultation arranged by the NHS.’
This clearly states that a meeting of the Council will hear from the NHS representatives on the proposed changes to Southend A&E and will have a debate on them. This may seem technical but it would then allow the council to decide and vote on a response to the proposals. Whether or not it was because of the closeness of the elections but the Conservative Administration joined the opposition in supporting the motion which was passed unanimously.
It was with some surprise to many councillors then, when we received an invitation to a briefing on the Mid and South Essex Success Regime/Sustainability and Transformation Plan. This is what was asked for in the motion but has now become a members briefing rather than the Full Council Meeting demanded by Councillors. A members briefing is just that, we turn up to a meeting told what is going on and can ask questions. But there is no power to make decisions or to vote on motions to say what the Council thinks or wants.
I am at a bit of a loss here, I have no idea what to do when a motion is ignored? What happens next, what powers are there to make the meeting happen? Who decided to change it to a briefing? These questions are being asked but if the Administration refuses to hold the meeting what power do the opposition Councillors to force a meeting as required by the Motion as passed. This it seems may be up to Officers to correct the error, which will hopefully be done very shortly. But in the meantime we have a Council refusing to do something the Councillors democratically voted for.