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Conservatives torpedo local people’s views on community hospital bed closures

Thursday, 27 July 2017 4 Comments by Claire

The Conservatives on Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee on Tuesday, torpedoed local people’s views and any possibility of a referral to the Secretary of State for Health for a decision to close 71 community hospital beds.

I will keep this blog post short and instead post three articles that explain things just as well as I could have explained them.
Suffice to say that I am deeply disappointed.

Not just with the behaviour of chair, Sara Randall Johnson, who appeared to do her utmost to prevent any referral, both at the previous meeting last month and at Tuesday’s meeting.

But also with the attitude of the majority of the Conservative group, who used a variety of ill-informed views and remarks, to justify their determination not to refer, refusing to hear or see any member of the public’s distress, frustration and disbelief at the proceedings.

The chair’s attitude made me angry and led to a protracted row where I repeatedly asked her why she had allowed a proposal to be made and seconded at the very start of the meeting by her conservative colleague, Rufus Gilbert, NOT to refer to the Secretary of State for Health, when I already had a proposal that I had lodged with her and the two officers, before the meeting.

I had been indicating to speak since the start of the meeting, yet, Cllr Randall Johnson chose to call four councillors before me.

When I was finally called to speak I challenged her on why she had not made my proposal, which she had a copy of in front of her, known to the committee at the start of the meeting, which is the usual practice.

Cllr Gilbert’s seconded proposal before questions or the debate had even started had nullified my proposal, which was why I was so angry.

Cllr Randall Johnson admitted that it was her decision not make my proposal known to the committee and her decision on who is called to speak.

When they did what they did at Tuesday’s health scrutiny meeting, the Conservatives betrayed thousands of local people. 

As I said in my final speech, local people had written letters, organised petitions, replied to public consultations, attended meetings, spoken at meetings, attended demonstrations, some had even spent significant sums of money on a legal challenge.

Time after time, month after month, the committee has asked questions which have not been properly answered on issues such as evidence that it will work, the staffing required, the finances, care of the dying. Local GPs are up in arms, staff have objected… yet the Conservative group knew best.

The vote was agonisingly close - six votes to seven, with two abstentions.  All those who voted with Cllr Gilbert’s motion were conservative. Cllr Randall Johnson also voted with Cllr Gilbert – another unusual move at such a highly charged and significant meeting.

I am quite certain, that with a different approach by the chair, that the outcome would have been different.  And local people’s views would have been respected and acted upon.

Councillors are elected by local people to represent their views.

Why was it so important to the chair and her colleagues that my proposal failed on Tuesday?

A whip at scrutiny committees, much least a legally constituted committee such as the health and adult care scrutiny committee of Devon County Council is strictly forbidden.

Yet to the members of the public present, who were repeatedly shouting “fix” it certainly appeared that way.

Since the meeting I have been inundated with messages from people who are disgusted at what happened.

Alongside two other councillors, I am seeking advice on what took place at Tuesday’s meeting.

The debate can be viewed on the webcast here -

Seaton councillor, Cllr Martin Shaw, wrote an excellent account of the meeting here -

My row with Cllr Randall Johnson has led to a local newspaper running a story about revenge… – see

Pic:  Cllr Martin Shaw.


1. At 06:35 pm on 28th Jul Chris Wakefield wrote:

The chairperson’s behaviour does raise questions. It takes a certain schadenfreude to put people lives at risk just to settle an old personal score, and if this is the case, how is it that Ms Randall-Johnson remains in the chair of such a key committee at County (where generally they have higher standards), if she plays fast and loose with its management? The writing, you would have thought, was well and truly on the wall for S R-J’s political shelf life when she was disposed of as EDDC councillor for Ottery Rural in 2011. As the more often less favoured of the two Tory candidates who regularly took the seats prior to that election, she was pushed into a third place (and out) by Claire’s barnstorming appearance in 2011.

It obviously went down very badly with her. So much so that it appears she’s prepared to shaft the public she’s supposed to be serving in east Devon out of small minded oneupmanship. There’s no other plausible reason to account for her behaviour at the meeting. There are very few people who accept that the New CCG has done anything but the most shoddy job of redesigning the NHS in east Devon, and unless you have cloth between your ears, you can’t support them on rational grounds. So there is certainly ground for complaint, and I hope there is one. Add my name to those objecting please.

2. At 10:55 pm on 28th Jul +Joan Kelly wrote:

Whilst I agree with people being treated in their own homes especially elderly people I am concerned that the funding and care won’t be in place when this comes to fruition. Most elderly people would prefer to be treated and die in their homes than in a hospital.
Saying that I am appalled and disgusted at the behaviour of Councillor Randall Johnson. I would expect more from a County Councillor, not a petty feud which this appears to be.
While she may not have done anything illegal as such it calls into question whether she is a fit person to be a County Councillor.
I think Claire’s constituents should be making a formal complaint regarding her behaviour. I for one am quite willing to do so. Therefore please can you tell us who to write to Claire.

3. At 11:48 pm on 31th Jul Jack Rowland wrote:

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the Scrutiny meeting last week due to a family member being in hospital in Lincs and I had planned to speak in the public segment. I did email all the Scrutiny Committee members urging a decision to refer to the Health Sec and listened and watched the webcast. To say I was disgusted by the Chair’s actions would be an understatement. I have put an agenda item on the Seaton Town Council meeting for next Monday on this subject and seeking a meeting with Jeremy Hunt and Neil Parish as soon as possible.

4. At 03:13 pm on 01th Aug Claire Wright wrote:

Thanks Joan, you would need to write to the county solicitor to complain - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

BW Claire

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