Hain warns of Skeleton Services for Local Authorities if magnitude of callous Westminster cuts continues

David Cameron has been warned by Peter Hain that continuing to slash budgets for local authorities will have irreversible consequences and leave Councils with the bare minimum of services. His letter comes as local authorities look to make further savings to plug their budget deficits with Neath Port Talbot looking at a cut of between £50 and £60million on top of the £30million already taken out in the last five years.

In a stinging letter to the Prime Minster the Neath MP said, ‘I am deeply perturbed by the devastating effect your Government’s swingeing cuts are having on the ability of local authorities to carry out their functions.

‘Difficult decisions have already been made to cut highly valued services and to reduce the size of the workforce to enable the Council to meet the budget shortfall. Only through the hard work of the Councillors, Officers, Trade Unions and staff have compulsory redundancies been avoided, which is vital given the high unemployment rate in the constituency.

‘If cuts of this magnitude continue to be passed down from Westminster, which is what local authorities are anticipating until 2020, it will effectively reduce them to the bare minimum of providing the statutory functions required of them. Local services will be decimated and no longer meet the taxpayer’s own expectations. Questions will be asked over the role of Councils with reduced functions and services. However I fear that this is the Government’s long term aim – to reduce the functions and role of local authorities to the point that they are no longer viable or necessary.

‘Substantial cuts have already been made to Neath Port Talbot’s budget with many of the visible services affected, libraries closed or transferred to local groups, the once gold standard service of school crossing patrols has been reduced to national standards, funding to third sector groups cut and jobs lost.

‘The further cuts of between £50 and£60million are a fifth of Neath Port Talbot’s total budget. The trajectory of these cuts emanating from Westminster is unsustainable.

‘Cuts of this magnitude are forcing Councils to think of costs and changes are being driven by savings, which is not what local representatives were elected to do and not what many of the workforce came into public service for. For many it is heart breaking not to be able to provide the standard of service they would like.

‘At a time when you and the Chancellor laud that the economy is growing these continuing cuts are out of step with your own proclamations. If the economy is doing as well as you profess then I fully expect the Welsh settlement to increase.

‘If on the other hand it continues to be reduced I fear that very soon local authorities will reach a crisis point in delivering services and will not be able to meet the demands placed on them. The implications for the future will be major and it is questionable whether the effects can even be reversed.

‘Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in Neath is the decimation of the mining communities yours will be the decimation of all communities with the dismantling of local government and the services they provide. Quite simply the continuation of the callous cuts by the Government will leave local authorities, including Neath Port Talbot with skeleton services and this cannot be allowed to happen.’

Letter to David Cameron – Budget Cuts

Look for alternative solutions to save local facilities from savage Westminster cuts

Neath MP Peter Hain has urged Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to look at all possible alternatives to maintain local libraries as Westminster cuts threaten the future of local facilities.

As part of his response to the to the review of library services in Neath Port Talbot Mr Hain has suggested library services join with other cherished local services, like local Post Offices, in a single community venue, that there is an increase in the mobile service where a facility is lost and that a service is retained in each valley.

In his letter Mr Hain suggested, ‘Discussions are held with local subpostmasters to establish whether their premises can be utilised to support local availability of books, even if there is no space for the full range in standalone libraries. Small post offices have been closing for decades and are now under increasing threat (perhaps to disappear entirely under current Government policies). Yet they could be kept open if Neath Port Talbot CBC made use of them to mutual benefit: making sub post offices more viable and enabling Library service costs to be cut whilst maintaining library services. Other Council services could also be dispensed through Post Offices with mutual benefit and savings.

‘Discussions are held with BT or other providers for a County Borough-wide funded deal for Wifi provision at post offices and community centres free for users, because many people including young residents now regularly use libraries for free Wifi. Such a deal should also provide Wifi ‘hot spots’ where Mobile Libraries park up, enabling both fixed internet access through PCs within the Mobile Libraries, and Smartphone or tablet access.

‘If small underused libraries have to close because of UK Government-imposed budget cuts then it is essential that Mobile Libraries are increased in both availability and frequency especially up our Valleys

‘The aim should be to retain if at all possible a library in each Valley – Neath Valley, Dulais Valley, Swansea Valley, Lower Amman Valley.’

Commenting on the consultation Mr Hain said, ‘This isn’t a decision anyone wants to be taking but the Westminster cuts are now filtering down to local government and Neath Port Talbot, like local authorities across Wales, have to look at everything to find the savings to get their books to balance.

‘The County Borough Council is caught between rock and a hard place by savage UK Government cuts in its budget, requiring savings which have to be found even in cherished services, I am anxious that in any Library reorganisation every effort is made to give local residents a service which means even the most isolated and low income are catered for. For some in this position reading books is a lifeline and important to their health and wellbeing.

‘The Westminster cuts are callous but it doesn’t have to mean services are lost completely but it will mean that services will change and will be delivered differently in the future.’

The Library Service Review Consultation runs until 2nd December 2013.

Neath MP Voices Anger over Proposed Closure of Gellinudd Hospital

MP for Neath Peter Hain has expressed his bitter disappointment about the impending closure of Gellinudd Hospital in Pontardawe, blaming Westminster-led cuts for the decline of local health services.

Mr Hain says, ‘Gellinudd Hospital provides a vital service to local people in the Pontardawe community, many of whom have contacted me to voice their opposition to its closure in the strongest possible terms.’

Plans to close the 30 bed hospital would see patients forced to seek healthcare elsewhere, adding strain to what Mr Hain describes as ‘already overstretched services.’ The local MP has been a vocal opponent from the beginning to the closure of Gellinudd, which he maintains is a vital bridging service for patients who are well enough to be discharged from acute hospitals but are unable to return home.

According to Mr Hain, ‘I have written repeatedly to the Chief Executive of the ABMU Health Board in order to convey the views of my constituents and also to add my own grave concerns regarding the devastating impact that Gellinudd’s closure will have on its patients and their loved ones.’

‘Furthermore, I am deeply unsatisfied by the plans to redirect just £340,000 a year of the £1.2 million spent annually on Gellinudd into additional community services, which I fear will result in a drop in the quality of care provided to the facility’s vulnerable patients.’

Neath MP Peter Hain Adds His Voice To Concern About Gellinudd Closure

Evening Post

NEATH MP Peter Hain has given his support to the under-threat Gellinudd Hospital, calling plans to close it “nonsensical”.

The Pontardawe hospital’s future is in the balance as the health board looks to save money.

Health chiefs want to see patients cared for at the site moved to different hospitals or out into the community, either in care homes or back in their own homes if they do not need hospital care.

Opposition has been voiced against the closure of the 30-bed hospital by members of the community and politicians including Conservative regional AMs Byron Davies and Suzy Davies.

At a public meeting held last month AMs Bethan Jenkins and Suzy Davies and local politicians Mike James, David Lewis, Alun Llewelyn and Rebeca Lewis all lent their support to a campaign by the hospital’s League of Friends.

In a letter to the chief executive of the ABMU Health Board Paul Roberts, Peter Hain has said he had “grave concerns” about the impact any closure would have.

He says he fears the cuts will have a “damaging effect on the area” and says the facility is purpose-built.

“Gellinudd provides a vital ‘bridging’ service for patients who may not require the level of care provided in acute hospitals but who are also not ready to return to their homes. While I recognise that more and more people wish to remain in their homes, and there is a concerted effort to provide more care at home, there are many instances where this is not possible and a stay in Gellinudd is not possible,” he writes.

He said there are worries whether home care provisions can provide the level of care and support needed by patients.

“Gellinudd plays a key role in the local community, which supports it through admirable groups like the League of Friends,” he adds.

“I urge you to reconsider your proposals to close Gellinudd Hospital and look to utilise the facility to help alleviate the current and future strains that acute hospitals and care services are facing,” wrote Mr Hain.

“With an acknowledged increasing demand on the service, it seems nonsensical to be removing this facility from the area and with it the 30 beds.

“Not everyone will be in a position to return home to receive care and it will cause pressure on other points of delivery,” adds Mr Hain.

A public consultation about the possible closure has now closed, and the results of that will be reported back to the health board at their next meeting.

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Hain supports campaign for Skate Park in Neath town centre

Peter Hain has praised the ‘tireless’ efforts of local young people who are trying to establish a skate park in Neath.

The MP met with members of Neath EXT along with representatives from Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Play Works! In Neath Port Talbot and various other local community groups in order to discuss how best to take their campaign forward.

Mr Hain says, ‘Neath EXT has shown inspiring commitment and dedication to bringing a permanent skate park to Neath and have demonstrated how well young people can work effectively with the local authorities in order to achieve a positive outcome.’

Mr Hain has offered his full support and best wishes to the group in regards to the project. The next step in the campaign is to secure a site suitable for the skate park.