For the first time in living memory Ottery St Mary Town Council (OSMTC) held a full council meeting at 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon.
The Extraordinary Council Meeting was held because 4 councillors (Dobson, Edwards, Gori and Holmes) had made a request for a special meeting to rescind the decision, made at the 6 November OSMTC meeting, to set up a working group to save Ottery Hospital.
Despite the very unusual timing of the meeting, there were 25 members of the public present, many of whom took advantage of the `public speaking` arrangements. At the stroke of 2.30, the Mayor locked the front door, to stop any others entering.
When someone (who had spent very many years delivering babies in Ottery) was unable to access the meeting, she went to the back of the building to gain access that way. Councillor Ann Edwards asked “is it safe to let her in?” However she was admitted.
In public speaking Angela Glanville expressed concern about a meeting being held at 2.30pm.
Philip Algar referred to the meeting held on 6 November, when 3 councillors (Faithfull, Giles and Pratt) voted in favour of setting up a working group, and 6 councillors abstained. He said that some of the 6 abstainers thought they had won. “Some councillors construed this as a victory for them, and a defeat for the trio. That is truly breathtaking and worthy of Private Eye. It also exposes a level of ignorance of those 6 Councillors in regard to the rules on voting at meetings. and calls into question the competence of those involved.”
Emily Davis said that Ottery Hospital provides a lifeline for very many people.
Stewart Lucas said that Ottery was seeing a vast population increase; the Coleridge Medical Centre was struggling to cope. He said the Town Council was not listening; it was not taking the threat to Ottery Hospital seriously enough. He was baffled that only 3 councillors voted to set up a working group to save the hospital.
Ian Dowler was critical of OSMTC, and said “some councillors feel that they are omnipotent and infallible” and that there was “a lack of transparency”. He was critical of the 4 councillors who had called for a special meeting to overturn the decision.
In response Cllr Josephina Gori said that she acted “with honesty, impartiality and integrity” in her council work; that insufficient information had been provided. She said that on 6 November she had been asked to vote for something that was not in accord with the council`s Standing Orders.
Cllr Roger Giles asked her which Standing Order. She said that terms of reference of the working group should have been provided in advance of the decision.
Cllr Peter Faithfull said the matter should be deferred to the February meeting.
Cllr Ian Holmes said: ” I am probably one of our hardest working councillors”. His view was “if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it”.
This prompted a passionate plea from Cllr Roger Giles, who said that the hospital is “broke” and does need “fixing”. He said that the in-patient beds had been taken away - causing considerable inconvenience to older people, and putting extra and unnecessary pressure on the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital beds. Ottery Hospital had also lost its minor injuries service - causing considerable inconvenience to those requiring treatment, especially young mums and their children,
Several councillors considered that the Ottery St Mary and District Health and Care Forum (OSMDHCF) had achieved success towards saving Ottery Hospital, and that the matter should be left to the Forum.
Cllr Geoff Pratt read extracts of emails he had received from Cllr Elli Pang, Chair of the Ottery St Mary and District Health and Care Forum, dated 1 and 22 August 2018, which he said confirmed that she had been in favour of setting up a Save Ottery Hospital working group. The emails showed that Ellie Pang and Leigh Edwards, the vice chair of OSMDHCF held meetings with Cllr Geoff Pratt DCC Claire Wright and Cll Margaret Hall, Chair of West Hill Parish Council (a retired doctor).
At a meeting on the 25th October it had been agreed at the suggestion of Claire Wright an application should be made to OSMTC for a working group to be set up. The minutes of the OSMDHCF confirmed Ellie Pang’s support
Cllr Pratt stated that sufficient information had been given to the Council at the meeting of the 6th November and that the Council’s Standing Orders had been complied with. To the 6 Councillors who abstained on 6 November he said: “You messed up, and that is the fact of the matter.”
Roger Giles formally proposed that:“This council recognises that Ottery St Mary Hospital is a vitally important health facility, which the council wishes to see used to the maximum extent for the benefit of the people of Ottery and the surrounding area, and therefore seeks to enlist the support of concerned individuals and organisations to achieve this, and therefore confirms its decision of 6 November to set up a working group to save Ottery Hospital.”
The Mayor, however, took a vote on Peter Faithfull`s proposal that the matter be deferred for consideration in February 2019, and this was agreed.
Ottery St Mary