How we might we influence Local Authorities to oppose health cuts, closures and Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Accountable Care Organisations?

ALL councillors have a duty to oversee and scrutinise the work of Health Trusts and CCG’s. Some have representatives who have sit on health boards but ALL Local Authorities have a powerful and statutory role in overseeing any reconfiguration proposals through their Joint Scrutiny roles. They can exercise that power forcefully but must be made aware of their briefs.

Health Campaigns Together has produced an excellent broadsheet (Into the Red Zone) for councillors which can be found on the HCT website . It’s thorough and detailed but it summarises the cuts programme we all now face and how Local Authorities must face up to them.

As campaigners, our role is to initially educate and inform councillors about the imminent threat to the NHS and their local services. Never assume they know even if they tell you they do! Groups must find out who all their councillors are and make them aware of our existence.

Remember, they are there to represent us but also have very busy workloads so they will priorities issues. We must make them aware of the importance of health.

Identify those who sit on Health Scrutiny Committees and target them. Also identify every political group leader and make appointments to meet them, if required on a regular basis. Ultimately they can control what every councillor does. Foster good relations and pick out those who appear sympathetic.

Find out when councils meet and organise lobbies and address the full meetings. Get the press there and invite them to join the photo shoots. Councillors always have an eye on the next election! Invite councillors to any public meetings or events your group may organise (NHS Birthday is a good opportunity).

Most councillors have local surgeries, so pay them a visit and get them onside as much as possible.

The Health Scrutiny role however is key. They have statutory powers to veto local recommendations by CCG’s or Trusts (although ultimately the final say rests with the Secretary of State via the IRP process). Councils can refuse to endorse Sustainability and Transformation Plans and are the only statutory public body which can do so.

Some councils will happily refuse to endorse Sustainability and Transformation Plans (they are still a minority) but the government is offering sweeteners to get them to support Sustainability and Transformation Plans. And councils can take out legal action via judicial reviews either on their own or jointly with campaign groups so make them they have the resources, expertise and power to do so!

Intransigent councils can of course face electoral challenges from campaign groups standing under the single issue banner (e.g. ‘Save our NHS’ or even NHAP). This needs careful thought and preparation but it can help to change minds very quickly! And as always keep the press informed of everything we are doing re councillors as they don’t like adverse publicity.

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