Council to debate NHS crisis and ULEZ extension

24 Jan 2023

The Liberal Democrat group on Watford Borough Council have submitted motions on the NHS and ULEZ extension to be debated at full council on 31st January. These will be heard before the debate on the Council’s budget for 2023/4 which needs to be passed at the meeting.

The motion on the NHS crisis will be proposed by Mayor Peter Taylor and seconded by Cllr Dawn Allen-Williamson and draws attention to the long ambulance response times, the delays in A&E and the national crisis in treatment waiting lists. It also reiterates the Liberal Democrats’ call for improvements to Watford General Hospital.

Cllr Dawn Allen-Williamson said:

“The NHS is such a precious organisation but it is in real crisis because the Conservative government has underfunded health and social care. This had led to long waiting lists. Local residents deserve better and the government needs to invest in our local hospital so they can reduce A&E waiting times and treat more patients.”

The Liberal Democrats have also slammed the Conservative government’s record on the NHS which has led to services deteriorating.

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said:

“The Conservatives have made a complete mess of the NHS through underfunding and poor management. They spend billions on useless PPE which could have been spent on supporting our hard working NHS staff and have failed to invest in the premises and equipment needed to save lives.

“Patients and their families deserve better than this. The government needs to get a grip and fix our NHS. They also need to support local patients by investing in Watford General like they promised.”

Mayor Taylor will also be seconding a motion criticising Sadiq Khan for the rushed expansion of ULEZ without the necessary support for those affected in Watford.

That motion, proposed by Cllr Ian Stotesbury who is the Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability, calls on Sadiq Khan to include Watford in his scrappage scheme and rezone Watford stations into zone 6 before extending ULEZ to all London Boroughs.

Commenting on the motion, Cllr Stotesbury said:

“Many people who live in Watford work in outer London and are going to be hit by a huge increase in costs at a time when their budgets are feeling stretched. Residents who need to change their car to become compliant only have until August to make the switch and many won’t be able to afford to. Sadiq Khan needs to delay ULEZ implementation and support residents to transition to cleaner vehicles. This change is fundamentally going to hit the poorest the hardest - it's just unacceptable”

 A number of councils in outer London are launching legal challenges to the expansion of ULEZ to their boroughs and have called for a delay in implementing the expansion. They have noted that in the previous expansion to the north and south circulars, residents were given two years to prepare whereas this expansion is due to take place in eight months’ time.

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said:

“I have written to the Mayor of London to say that this new charge is unfair on Watford residents and all he has said is that we should take it up with the Department for Transport in Whitehall.  It’s as if he has his fingers in his ears and is ignoring any criticism of these rushed plans. I hope that by passing this motion we can send a clear signal to City Hall in London that residents in Watford need to be heard"

ULEZ motion

The following motion has been proposed by Councillor Stotesbury and seconded by Mayor Taylor:

Council notes:

  • That the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced his intention to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the London border, starting August 2023.
  • That within the ULEZ, all vehicles not meeting the “ultra low emission vehicle” standard are charged £12.50 per day each time they are used, both residents’ vehicles and visitors’.
  • That the expansion to the London border will have knock-on effects to residents in Watford and in many other local authorities on the edge of London.
  • Due to poor public transport links in outer London and nearby areas, Watford residents are unfairly penalised because people in these areas are more likely to own a car, more likely to need a car, and less able to find alternatives.
  • Further, older cars which will be hit with the ULEZ charge will be disproportionately owned by people on lower incomes who cannot afford a newer replacement vehicle.
  • Watford is served by a number of TfL services and as such, residents in Watford are paying into TfL’s budget but do not have access to the TfL scrappage scheme.
  • That the initial requirement for TfL to find new revenue from expanding current schemes was part of a negotiated funding settlement with the Conservative government.

Council acknowledges that Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor has written to Sadiq Khan to outline his opposition to the ULEZ expansion until such time as:

  • The car scrappage scheme is extended to Watford
  • Watford stations are included in zone 6 to reduce public transport costs

Council calls for the Labour Mayor of London to halt or delay his proposed ULEZ expansion until such times as:

  • Watford residents are included in TfL’s scrappage scheme to encourage the transition from polluting vehicles to ULEZ compliant vehicles.
  • TfL and Hertfordshire County Council invest more in our public transport in order to encourage residents to switch from private to public transport
  • Watford stations are included in zone 6 of the TfL network to reduce costs for Watford's residents.

Motion 2: NHS in crisis

Proposer: Mayor Peter Taylor

Seconder: Cllr Dawn Allen-Williamson

Council notes that recent statistics compiled by the BBC show:

  • That at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, 71% of ambulances are waiting longer than 30 minutes before handing over to A&E staff, more than double the figure in 2019 and well above the national average of 44%.
  • At the trust, more people are waiting longer to see a doctor in A&E. In 2019, 18% of patients waited more than four hours to be seen. That figure is now 42%.
  • That hospital waiting lists in the trust have risen by 158% since 2019 and over half of patients are waiting more than 18 months for treatment.

Council believes

  • That local NHS staff are working incredibly hard and that local residents are proud of the work of health workers and social care workers do every day to help others.
  • That management in the local NHS Trust have been successful in improving the standard of care over recent years and have been rightly recognised by national awards for their work and innovations such as digital wards.
  • That the current crisis is a result of a long period of underfunding by the Conservative government, long term issues with the social care sector, and a staffing crisis caused by a lack of long term thinking.
  • That anti-strike legislation proposed by the government to ensure minimum staffing levels will make industrial relations worse, attack individual rights, and are a way for the government to distract from their failures.
  • That local health outcomes would be vastly improved by implementing plans for investment at Watford General Hospital and hospitals at St Albans and Hemel Hempstead.

Council calls for

  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social care to immediately fund the improvement plans set out by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and supported by Watford Borough Council
  • The Conservative government to drop plans to legislate against the right to strike and to achieve a fair pay deal with nurses, ambulance workers and other key workers.
  • The government to deal with the current NHS crisis and then create a long term strategy to properly fund and staff our precious health service.

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