In less than two weeks, London votes in Council – and European – Elections.
One issue has dominated this election campaign – and indeed politics in Hammersmith & Fulham for two years: the Government’s proposals to demolish Charing Cross Hospital and close the A&Es both there and at Hammersmith Hospital.
At Prime Minister's Questions this week , I asked David Cameron:
I have two world-class hospitals in my constituency. The Secretary of State for Health has decided that Hammersmith will lose its A and E this year and Charing Cross will be demolished, losing all consultant emergency services, including A and E, and the country’s best stroke unit. Will the Prime Minister stop his Health Secretary putting my constituents’ lives at risk?
Not for the first time on this subject he failed to answer, but he did slip up. Firstly, admitting the issue was to do with money not health and secondly by telling the outright whopper that the closures are backed by local people.
You don’t have to be one of the thousands who marched against the closures or the 100,00 who signed the Save our Hospital petitions to know how outrageous this claim is.
If you want to know the latest –truthful - information about the local NHS, read the leaflet produced by the Save our Hospitals campaign – and display their poster in your window.
The plans have changed since the decision to bulldoze the whole Charing Cross site was taken last year. It is still proposed to demolish the existing buildings and sell around half of the site for private development. The remainder will stay in NHS use as a base for GPs, a walk in clinic, treatment services (like physiotherapy) and elective (ie planned) surgery. But what makes Charing Cross Charing Cross will still go:
• All emergency consultant services
• All emergency beds – at least350
• The stroke unit – rated the best in the country
• Intensive care
• And of course the A&E, not just here but at Hammersmith Hospital as well.
In H&F, the Tory-run council have confused and betrayed local residents. In February 2013 they claimed to have 'saved' Charing Cross Hospital. Then in November 2013 they'd 'saved' it again.
Both times they sent out leaflets to local residents - at taxpayers' expense - to tell them the good news.
Now, of course, the Tories have said that even if you disagree with the NHS plans, they're not something that local councillors can change. One minute they're saving the hospitals, the next they seem to be saying, "We can do nothing, vote for us!"
The Tories have brought themselves into disrepute with their smearing of the independent Save our Hospitals Campaign. The local residents who have worked tirelessly to keep this campaign running have done an excellent job, and did not deserve to have their Tory councillors accuse them of scaremongering.
Most cynically, the Tories have put off the final closure announcement until the week after the local election. They do not want you to have the information you need to make an informed choice in this election. But you can bet it is bad news – otherwise we would know it now.
Make no mistake, it makes a real difference who wins on the 22 May.
Labour has vowed that if we win back the Council we will not agree to the demolition of Charing Cross Hospital and loss of essential health services. We will adopt planning policies that put the community before developers. Affordable homes as well as hospitals and schools will take priority over luxury buy-to-leave-empty tower blocks.
For nearly a year now I have been out every weekend with Labour activists and candidates, knocking on doors and speaking with residents. Nearly every resident I have spoken with wants to talk about the plans for their local NHS.
I have spoken with life-long Tory voters, who have decided to vote Labour for the first time, because they no longer trust the Tory Council to tell the truth about the future of the hospitals.
Residents feel as if they have been deliberately misled and deliberately confused. More than anything else, they feel that the Council is simply not listening to them.
On the 22nd of May I am expecting a huge turnout of voters as people feel that this is their chance to let the Council know how they feel about the proposals to destroy our local NHS. We need to show the Council that we value the NHS, value our local hospitals and do not want to see them sold down the river for a quick profit.