Proposed health hub will take away some public green space and affect town’s businesses

Re: Proposed Seaford Health HubDear Bill Giles, Chair of Finance LDCcCC Sussex Express

Sunday, 5th May 2019, 1:32 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th May 2019, 1:58 pm
Maria Caulfield

It would appear that Lewes District Council are planning a major departure for funding of this huge proposed development in Seaford which would take away some of our public green space, have a major impact upon our town in terms of business, and therefore the vibrancy of the town, and increase traffic on our roads unnecessarily. Is this the case?

Unfortunately Adam Smith, Leader of LDC, did not reply to my letter of 11th March apart from his PA stating that the proposal for the ‘Health Hub’ is not a fait accompli and that they would research into the disruption on the roads; also that it was not possible to build on parking spaces at Dane Road. All other points remain unanswered.

However, Maria Caulfield MP stated: ‘The council are not paying for the medical centre. They are offering their site and the Government will fund the project. The council will fund the Leisure Centre as the Leisure Centre needs updating anyway.”

The council tax is high locally as we have the highest number of 85-year-olds in the country and to pay for the significantly higher social care bill the council tax reflects this.

Certainly most people I speak to say they would prefer to pay slightly more in council tax to keep services than to lose them.

An 11% demand in social care this year alone in East Sussex means extra services are needed.

Part of the council tax is also going on 200 new police officers in East Sussex being taken on this year as residents fed back they wanted more police on the streets.

The Government and the councils have no money of their own, they only have tax payers’ money whether it is in the form of national taxation or locally via council tax. Both the council and the police have listened to local residents in Seaford who have said they want better health services and more policing. This does have to be paid for in some form of taxation.’ Email 18.4.19.

I received this on the same day as an email from 38 Degrees stating that £63m NHS contracts have come up for sale in the past few weeks!

This brings up a number of issues directly relating to finance in addition to the remaining unanswered questions:-

1) In the past, rates were not expensive and were indeed subsidized by central government in the form of the Rate Support Grant (1969 - 1997). (This was at a time when the nation had a fairer distribution of wealth and it was reflected in a more egalitarian tax system.)

2) From its inception the NHS has always been funded by central government (tax) but now it is proposed that the LDC will be subsidizing the Clinical Commissioning Group in the form of over £1m from council funds and £17m from the Public Works Loan Board - ie Council Tax. (This information has been supplied by Cllr Carolyn Lambert in her newsletter for May and also Cllr Maggie Wearmouth. Indeed Cllr Penny Lower stated in her email of 1st April that the bill would be £20m rather than £18m.)

3) This is setting a precedent for a different form of funding for the NHS and at a time when the NHS is being sold off gradually bit by bit. Ever since Margaret Thatcher contracted out our cleaning in hospitals we have been putting public money into private hands. This has been extended and continued by Tony Blair’s government and indeed this government; thereby undermining the NHS.

4) On the face of it Maria Caulfield MP seems to have little awareness, not only about the impact of the scheme, but also that the community will be paying for NHS facilities from council tax in addition to paying national tax. 
I would suggest that it is the job of good representatives is to fight for better resources for their constituencies and wards.

5) Our LDC councillors making these decisions don’t appear to be spelling out this new departure in funding for our community as well as seemingly riding rough shod over the needs of our community.

6) Of course the staff at our GP surgeries deserve to have enough space to work in, but it would seem to be cheaper to extend the current practice at Dane Road and thereby protecting our green space, our current small businesses in Seaford and not polluting our town with an unnecessary increase in traffic.

7) With regard to the argument that we cannot use car parking space in Dane Road surely this would be preferable to the above alternative.

Encouraging people to use public transport is commendable as long as there are some disabled spaces available.

8) It would be very useful if you would explain why our council tax is the second highest in the country.

Is it really because we have a large elderly population?

Certainly we want to continue and extend services to the elderly in our community, but presumably there are swings and roundabouts if this is true?

For example if we don’t have many children are less funds are needed for this section of the community?

With regard to funding adequate numbers of police (which again our government are not funding) this is a new venture and does not explain why we have had such a high council tax rate up until now.

9) Does the ‘Health Hub’ proposal involve cuts to the GP surgeries at Alfriston and East Dean?

10) Please could proposed public funding for the ‘Health Hub’ be made transparent? The LDC is already £12 in debit.

Why should council tax payers have to pay another £1m plus and accrue an additional debt of £17m plus when the NHS has always previously been funded by central government?

11) Have the Wave Leisure Centre declared a vested interest in the Health Hub proposal yet? If so when did they do this?

12) What were the results of the public exhibition at the Leisure Centre?

I implore you to take a sensitive approach to the proposed major funding expenditure and huge developments which have enormous implications upon our town and our lives.

It has taken months to obtain the little information which we have gleaned due to the honourable work of some councillors mentioned above.

We should be grateful for answers to the rest of our questions.

This also begs questions about how our democracy works and LDC accountability.

Linda Parker

Stafford Road