How do the Councils’ legal officers justify claim that there’s no stopping hospital cuts consultation?

The undersigned Save our NHS campaign groups have written this open letter to the Chair of the 22nd Feb Joint Health Scrutiny Committee meeting, asking how Calderdale and Kirklees Councils’ legal officers justified their contentious claim that the Scrutiny Committee can’t stop the deeply flawed Consultation on proposed hospital service cuts.

Dear Cllr James

At the Calderdale & Kirklees JHSC meeting on 22nd February, 8 deputations called on the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee to stop the consultation now by referring it to the Secretary of State for Health, on the grounds that it is seriously flawed and its proposals are contrary to the health needs of the population of Calderdale and Kirklees.

You told the meeting:

“We have taken legal advice from legal officers at Calderdale & Kirklees Councils, and we don’t have the power to stop this process. They justify this perfectly well and we accept their considered view. This JHSC has no power to stop it. Therefore since we have no power we’re not trying to stop it.”

Please will you tell us how the legal officers justified their statement that the JHSC has no power to stop the consultation by referring it to the Secretary of State?

We ask this is in the interests of transparency and public accountability; the public has the right to know how the legal officers’ justified their claim – particularly since it seems contentious to us.

Please will you also send us Calderdale and Kirklees legal officers’ guidance to the Councils’ Governance Committee (or similar), about changes to health scrutiny function and powers after the 2012 Health and Social Care Act came into effect?

We note that other Councils’ legal officers differ from the opinion of Calderdale and Kirklees legal officers.

For example, the Report by West Sussex Council’s Head of Law and Governance on post- HSCA 2012 changes to the Health Scrutiny Function and Powers says:

“…in any case where the Committee is not satisfied that consultation on any proposal for substantial variation or development is reasonable in terms of content or time allowed, or if the committee is not satisfied that the reasons for an urgent change to services is adequate, it may refer the item to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may require the local NHS body to carry out further consultation as he or she considers appropriate.”

We are interested to know if the equivalent guidance for Calderdale and Kirklees Councils includes includes this Health Scrutiny power, and if not, why not.

We look forward to your prompt reply.

Kind regards,
Rosemary Hedges, Secretary, Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign Group
Paul Cooney, Secretary Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public
Terry Hallworth, Huddersfield Resident
Dewsbury Keep Our NHS Public (Save Our Hospital Services)
Christine Hyde, North Kirklees Support the NHS
Slawit Save Our Surgery
Barnsley Save Our NHS
Jenny Shepherd, Chair, Calderdale & Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS

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