My weekly update
Posted by Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, at 09:51, Fri 14 September 2012:
Last week, I met NHS managers to discuss the consultation on changes to health services in Trafford.
I left them with a lot of questions they need to think hard about.
First, there are worries about the consultation process. Although the consultation document was supposed to be delivered to every household in Trafford, it's clear this didn't happen in some parts of the borough. The NHS told me they are trying to address this, but they still can't guarantee that everyone has received the consultation document. And it doesn't leave much time for people to read all the detail and get in a response.
There have also been reports that people haven't been able to raise all their questions and concerns at the public meetings. Local residents don't want to be talked at, they don't just want to hear pre-prepared presentations, they want to ask about the services that matter to them. In some parts of the borough, the future of the A&E is the top issue, in other areas, there are real concerns about GPs' surgeries or community health care. All these topics are really important, and it's vital that there is time and the opportunity for all of them to be discussed.
The NHS has a responsibility to carry out a proper, transparent and rigorous consultation process. I won't tolerate a consultation that's rushed through before everyone has a chance to participate, or that allows people's concerns and views to be crowded out.
What local people most want to know is how the proposed changes will improve healthcare in Trafford. I asked for an analysis of where every patient in Trafford General would be in the future under these proposals, how they'd be treated, and what service they'd get. We need to know that waiting times will be shorter, infection rates lower, more lives saved.
NHS managers need to prove that to us.
In parliament this week, I spoke in an important debate about the government's plans for a new benefit, the universal credit. This will be paid to people in low paid work, to those who lose their jobs, and to sick and disabled people, replacing the benefits they currently get.
I am very worried about this new benefit. We don't know that the IT will work. Yet ministers want the vast majority of people to claim the benefit online (fewer than 1/5 do at present).
We do know that all the benefit will be paid to just one person in the household. So in future the child tax credit that many mums receive now and the help they get with childcare costs won't be paid to her. Yet there's plenty of evidence that paying money for children direct to their mothers is the best way of making sure it gets spent on their needs.
We know that new conditions are going to be placed on people doing a few hours of work to get more work. But we don't know what those conditions will look like. We do know it isn't easy to get extra hours when the economy's flat on its back.
We don't know what's going to happen about free school meals.
We know many people who get help now with their council tax won't do so in future. So it will be harder to make work pay.
We know the amount of help with rent is also being cut.
This isn't incentivising people to take up jobs. It is simply leaving them with less and less to live on, making it more likely that more people who lose their job or are on low wages are forced into poverty and debt.
One particular worry for us in Trafford is the high cost of housing here compared to other parts of the country. So I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet the government minster responsible for housing this week to lobby for more funding to enable us to build more affordable homes.
I'm pleased the government has announced some additional funding, but I'm totally puzzled why the minister thinks letting private developers off the hook by watering down the so-called "section 106" requirement for them to build affordable housing or community facilities as part of their planning permission is going to help us get more homes built here in Trafford.
I told the minister that just £1.25million (a small sum to a government that's just announced an extra £300 million to invest into housing projects) would get us 50 more homes in Trafford, and we could get started building right away.
I also asked the minister what he would do to unblock the stalled development of the town centre in Partington.
I told the minister we have loads of ideas for regenerating our economy, building more homes and creating jobs. I didn't get any promises, so I've invited him to visit the constituency to see for himself.
Kate Green MP