The title of this Blog is not supposed to be ironic – in fact it is meant to be celebratory. However, there is always an element of irony where the subject in hand is local democracy.
This is because of the great centralising tendency of national Government over the last number of years. Unfortunately, blame cannot only be laid at Labour’s door – both Lady Thatcher’s then administration and John Major’s subsequent time in office, effectively set the mould for heavy involvement in local issues from Central Government.
Today, we attended an important rally – to try and save our local hospital, from its threat of downgrading. This is critical, as the hospital (Epsom General Hospital), is the nearest major trauma centre for a number of miles – miles in a densely populated part of South West London, and the South East of England more generally. Miles, in a location where one cannot afford the time lost in travelling by ambulance to replacement trauma centres; miles that are critical. Literally a matter of life or death.
Not that this seems to matter to the broader NHS Trust responsible for the substantial cuts. Next to be threatened is maternity provision: as Chris Grayling , the local MP (and then Shadow Secretary of State for Transport) states clearly on his website, this would “(leave) Epsom with a much smaller unit with no special care facilities and no emergency cover – creating the risk that mothers needing emergency treatment will have to be rushed to St Helier (Sutton) by ambulance mid-labour.
Many of us in the local area have been campaigning against this reduction in provision for over a year now, thus far to little avail. The fight isn’t over yet, but we have to admit, our faith in local democracy itself needs resuscitation.