I am very sad to hear that Age UK have announced their intention to close the Whitstable Branch of the organisation by March 2018. I understand this has been a very difficult decision for all involved. I am of course sad to see services for elderly members of our community being taken away from being based in Whitstable.
In recent years, Whitstable has suffered great reduction to many of its public, charitable and community services; this includes the loss of the police station, large post office, sorting office, council-run museum, job centre plus and other important provision. One of my key priorities is to fight for strong community services in Whitstable, most especially for our elderly and vulnerable residents, who often find it difficult to travel to the services of help offered in Herne Bay and Canterbury.
I understand that all current and potential clients of Age UK in Whitstable will be offered a place at the Age UK Herne Bay Day Centre instead. I am pleased that the transport option to the Herne Bay-based services will continue to be available to all Whitstable users. I will be looking to work with Age UK to ensure that the full range of services, including the gardening service, which are currently on offer to Whitstable users of Age UK remains, albeit based out of a different venue.
The hard-working staff of Age UK Whitstable now find their jobs at risk and I urge Age UK to put measures in place to offer similar roles in other services to their employees, as was offered to those facing redundancy recently at Age UK in Folkestone.
I want to work with the trustees, clients and supporters of this excellent charity to minimise disturbance and worry for all involved. My office and I are available to help with any concerns.
Let me say this clearly, the people of Canterbury, Whitstable and the Villages say the Kent & Canterbury Hospital is not for sale.
I have already had many representations from local constituents seriously concerned about rumours that there has been a long-term plan aimed at selling off the very valuable Kent & Canterbury site. This announcement will only confirm the suspicions many already have. Local people are very well aware that the value of the land on which Kent & Canterbury is built is far in excess of anything that could be realised in Margate or Ashford. Local people are also very well aware that large scale housing and property developers often make promises about investing in infrastructure or community facilities which never actually ever seem to see the light of day.
On behalf of all my constituents, I shall be rigorously questioning this sudden proposal. I am concerned that we are seeing here the application of the Tories’ Naylor Report, which basically would transfer public assets at low cost into the hands of private developers. I fought and won the election locally on a clear platform that NHS assets are not for sale. Though the last Tory MP here admitted his complete ignorance of Naylor proposals, we in Labour are wholly opposed to the privatisation of the NHS which has proven to be at the cost of the many, for the sake of a very few.
This is not the way to secure a good hospital in Canterbury with acute services. It is not the way to plan for improving NHS services across East Kent. It represents an admission of the current Government’s failure in investing in the future of our NHS. We do not have problems in our local NHS due to overspending. Far from it, these problems are caused by underfunding. Until we have a Government committed to funding the NHS sustainably, and ending the current scandalous waste of NHS money on endless ‘commissioning’ exercises resulting in fragmentation and hiving services off to profiteers, we will not have the kind of long term future we want for our local hospital and NHS services.
Local people will be angered that this announcement by Tories Simon Cook, Leader of the City Council, and Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, is simply naked party politicking contradicting her statement to the House she wanted “cross party” work to save the hospital. Neither of them had the courtesy of informing the local MP of these proposals. That’s simply not good enough.