Latest unemployment figures show positive news…

April 19, 2012

It is a hopeful sign that unemployment figures have gone down, according to figures released yesterday by the Office of National Statistics. The figures show that the ILO measure of unemployment fell to 2.65 million in the period December – February 2012 which is a decrease of 35,000 from the last quarter[1] and locally in North East Hertfordshire constituency 25 lower than last month, February 2012 . David Cameron referred to the national drop in unemployment in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday[2] and I think we should be pleased with this drop when unemployment had risen last month. Thankfully North East Herts still retains a high level of employment which is listed as 71.3% for the year end to September 2011[3]. The number of unemployed claimants in North East Hertfordshire constituency in March 2012 was 1,433. This represents a rate of 3.0% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, one of the lowest rates in the UK.

Elsewhere, the construction sector output has experienced 6.1% growth month on month in February[4] which is equally as encouraging, especially when compared to the 12.0% month on month decline that the sector experienced last January. I do hope that other sectors enjoy similar levels of growth in the months going forward especially when the UK has so much to look forward to in other directions with the start of the Olympics, due in the summer.

[1] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/april-2012/index.html
[2] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120418/debtext/120418-0001.htm#12041847000008
[3] http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP12-17
[4] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/construction/output-in-the-construction-industry/february-2012/sumconsoutfebruary2012.html

Advertisements

Keeping the NHS Promise to Royston

April 18, 2012

Royston residents were pleased to hear of major investment in the health and care infrastructure of the town with a brand new care home and a £1 million extension to the Health Centre, but this was on the basis that NHS intermediate care patients would continue to be treated in hospital or care home beds in Royston during the building of the new care home. There were also questions to be asked about ensuring that the future health needs of the town were met by the new building works.

However, immediately after the decision by NHS Hertfordshire we were told that the Hertfordshire Community NHS trust, which provides the nursing staff for the hospital, had intervened to say that they would no longer staff Royston and that Royston patients would actually be sent to Hitchin for an indefinite period. This is completely unacceptable and local County Councillors and I have written to the newspapers and made our postion clear to the NHS. We want the NHS to keep its promise to Royston. A further meeting is planned in the near future. The letters are below.

Letter to Local Papers:

Dear Sir,

We are writing about Royston Hospital and its services. We want to ensure the best possible outcome for Royston residents.

NHS Hertfordshire PCT currently owns and manages Royston Hospital, which has 12 beds usable for intermediate care for Stevenage and North Hertfordshire patients. Hitchin Hospital provides similar beds for the area too. The separate Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust are based at Royston Hospital providing the nursing care for the beds and District Nurse and Community Nursing services to local residents in their homes. There are about 30 outpatient clinics which operate from time to time, of which physiotherapy is the largest.

Last year, NHS Hertfordshire decided to place its intermediate care patients closer to their homes and beds are to be provided through the NHS in care homes. So, Stevenage patients will be in beds in Stevenage and Baldock patients in Baldock and so on. Hitchin Hospital is to close. Royston area patients in beds in Royston Hospital usually number about 5.

Last November, NHS Hertfordshire started a consultation on the future for Royston Hospital services. This was widely covered in our local papers and Oliver Heald put out a Press Statement asking local residents to read the proposals and take part.

They are planning to knock down the existing Hospital, because it is worn out and build a brand new care home, which will also provide our Royston NHS beds for intermediate care. The Herts County Council Social Services will lead on the building project and the land is likely to be sold to the care home developer, because care homes in Hertfordshire are in the independent sector.

There were choices to be made about whether the outpatients and Community Nursing services would be better provided at the new care home on the existing site or in the town centre. NHS Hertfordshire suggested an option of putting the outpatients and clinics at the Health Centre in a first storey extension. This would also provide a lift and give much needed additional space for Dr Brownrigg’s practice. This would cost almost £1 million.

A meeting “Conversation Cafe” was advertised and took place at the Golf Club with a good turnout and it was clear that there were mixed views in the town. We have met the Friends of Royston Hospital, NHS representatives and a number of GPs and other councillors and heard views from many local people. Some people would like the outpatients and clinics to be at the existing Hospital site for the future as part of the new care home. Some prefer the Health Centre extension option long term and some would like a brand new Health Centre on a site yet to be identified.

NHS Hertfordshire have now announced their decision that they are going to allow Herts County Council to build the care home on the Hospital site and that the Health Centre will have the extension built.

The consultation was on the basis that Royston’s intermediate care patients would always be in beds in the Royston area, either at the Hospital or in local care homes, while the new care home is built. However, shortly after NHS Hertfordshire’s decision, the Community NHS Trust suddenly said it was no longer able to staff the beds at Royston Hospital and that patients from Royston would have to go to Hitchin Hospital for an indefinite period. This is unacceptable. The Community NHS Trust must comply with the clear basis of the consultation and ensure Royston patients remain in Royston area. We are taking this up with them urgently.

We are asking NHS Hertfordshire about the medium term, as Royston is expanding and will need more health facilities. We are also asking about the proceeds of sale of the site and whether money will be available as a legacy to provide for future health facilities in Royston. It is important that plans for the new building take account of and allow for future town expansion and future health needs.

We are arranging a further meeting with NHS Hertfordshire. The outpatients and Community Nursing services will be based at Royston Hospital, until the new Health Centre extension is completed.

It is welcome that the extension to the Health Centre is going ahead and a brand new care home is being built. This is a major investment in Royston’s health and care infrastructure. However, we are concerned that Royston patients should be treated in Royston and to see the full picture for the future and are therefore pressing for answers to the points above.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Heald MP
County Councillor Fiona Hill
County Councillor Tony Hunter

Letter to Hertfordshire NHS Community Trust :

David Law, Chief Executive,
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust,
Unit 1A Howard Court,
14 Tewin Road,
Welwyn Garden City,
Hertfordshire AL7 1BW. 16 April 2012

Dear Mr Law,

Royston Hospital

The recent consultation regarding the future of Royston Hospital was on the basis that Royston’s intermediate care patients would always be in beds in the Royston area, either at the Hospital or in local care homes, while the new care home is built. Responses were made on that basis and so was the decision. However, shortly after NHS Hertfordshire’s decision, the Community NHS Trust suddenly said it was no longer able to staff the beds at Royston Hospital and that patients from Royston would have to go to Hitchin Hospital for an indefinite period. This is unacceptable.

It is my firm belief that the Community NHS Trust must comply with the clear basis of the consultation and ensure Royston patients remain in Royston area. I would be grateful for your urgent assurance that the NHS promise to Royston will be kept either by reopening the necessary beds at Royston Hospital or contracting for these services from care homes locally.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Heald MP


Budget boost for most workers

April 17, 2012

Amid all the talk of pasties, grannies and cutting rich people’s tax reliefs, the central message of the Budget was a major tax cut for most working people and low income workers particularly. In North East Hertfordshire, people will be up to £220 better off next year thanks to the largest ever increase in the personal allowance announced by George Osborne in the Budget. The income tax personal allowance will be increased from April 2013 by an additional £1,100 to £9,205. This increase will give 35,925 local taxpayers a much needed boost every month. This means nationally that income tax has been cut by up to £546 for basic rate taxpayers since the Government came to power and 2 million of the lowest earners will have been taken out of tax altogether. But it really benefits our area too. 1225 more people in my constituency will be taken out of paying income tax. This means that 2988 will have been lifted out of income tax altogether by this Government.

The Budget was also about boosting growth, with cuts in Corporation Tax and regulations for business and a major increase in training and apprenticeships. The investment tax relief for businesses will also help locally.

Of course, many people love their pasties, but grannies have not lost cash in the Budget, simply their personal allowance differential with lower paid workers and it is right to try to reduce rich people’s tax reliefs, whilst balancing this against the interests of charities. But if all rich people only paid to causes they liked, the medium and lower income taxpayers would be left holding the bill for vital basic services. We should all have to pay our taxes.