Response from Forest of Dean Labour Party to the complaint lodged by Lydney Town Council | Cllr Bernie O’Neill

In a letter to Lydney Town Council regarding the complaint, later released by Lydney Town Council, Cllr Bernie O’Neill (Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party Chairman) responds:

“I note your correspondence dated 15 January regarding your complaint against Mr. Zac Arnold. Having taken advice from the National Labour Party I have to inform you that no action will be taken by the Local or National Party as your complaint is concerning a resident of Lydney in his private capacity, and not with the Labour Party. Certain assumptions appear to have been made because Mr Arnold is a member of the Party, but this does not preclude him from voicing his opinions in a person capacity.

“Regarding issues raised in the attached emails about a meeting in November 2018, there are some insinuations which cause concerns and the comment about the tragic murder of Jo Cox is particularly galling and beyond belief.

“The events of 14 January at your Council meeting are your concern and not one for us to be involved in, but I do have to say that there are witnesses who are prepared to give a different opinion of the proceedings of that meeting and I trust that you will reflect on the matter.”

Complaint to the Labour Party regarding Shaun Stammers’ social media activity | Zac Arnold

“Dear Chair and Secretary,

“I was appalled this evening to read a post published by Mr Stammers who currently holds the offices of Vice Chairman Policy, Joint IT/Media Coordinator, LGBT+ Officer and Chairman of Cinderford and Mid-Dean Branch this evening on his public Facebook page regarding the decision by the National Executive Committee, in consultation with this Constituency Labour Party, to implement an All Women’s Shortlist to select the next Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.

“Whilst I understand that this is an emotional time for Mr Stammers, the wording in which he made the announcement on his “The Forest Matters” Facebook page has quite frankly done a serious amount of damage to the standing of this CLP and has now begun to spread to the CLPs official social media channels including members of the electorate stating that they will not vote Labour again and stating that they “want a list” of the 13 individuals at the consultation meeting that voted for an All Women’s Shortlist so that they can be “fined for sexism.” At no point in his exchanges with these members of the public demanding names and threatening, effectively, to bring out the pitchforks to puncture Labour’s electoral chances in the district, did Mr Stammers make them aware of the fact that it was actually HIS vote that tipped the balance in favour of an All Women’s Shortlist being the 13th vote – making a majority of 1. Yet, despite this fact, he declared that the CLP “unfortunately” voted by a small majority in favour of an All Women’s Shortlist.

“Simultaneously, after the consultation meeting when approached regarding the reason for him voting for an All Women’s Shortlist he stated that he had to because that is what he had “always stood for.” – Funny how times change now that it is confirmed he is unable to have another shot out of making a career at the membership’s and electorate’s expense.

“In this post, he stated, “I am only saddened that I will not have the opportunity to seek the support of Labour Members in an open and honest selection process this time around.” This statement clearly suggests, and in my eyes is a clear accusation, that either the consultation vote, NEC decision or upcoming selection process is corrupt or rigged. This is utterly despicable and has now led to a sentiment in the comments of his post and elsewhere of members of the public suggesting that we are not trustworthy, we are corrupt and that they will no longer give us their votes. Either Mr Stammers has just committed membership suicide, is grossly incompetent and shouldn’t be trusted with any kind of access to Labour Party social media channels, or worse still, is deliberately attempting to smear the local party as a result of him no longer being able to stand as our candidate. I remind you, the vote was won by a majority of 1 – Shaun Stammers voted in favour of All Women’s Shortlist in the consultation meeting – How is any of this process not “open and honest” thus far?

“This online activity amounts to discrediting the party on social media and could easily severely inhibit our chances of removing Mark Harper from office at the next election, whenever that may come. I have cc’d Phil Gaskin and Sonia Wright in to this email.”

Final decision from Labour Party HQ on the complaint lodged by Lydney Town Council | Tim Dexter

In an email to, then Executive Officer of Lydney Town Council and later Assistant Clerk, Carol Wheeler, Labour Party Complaints Officer Tim Dexter said:

“Thank you for providing the additional information.

“If Mr Arnold is attending these meetings as a private individuall and resident then this would not be a matter that the Labour Party would be able to take any action on. We are unable to arbitrate on members’ conduct outside of their participation with the Party, and matters such as this would therefore be irrespective of their membership.

“I would advise that any concerns over safety or potential behaviour should be reported to the Police.”

Lydney Town Council supply Labour Party HQ with additional information regarding their complaint | Carol Wheeler

In response to a request for more information from Tim Dexter, Complaints Officer for the National Labour Party at Southside, Carol Wheeler wrote to him as Lydney Town Council’s Executive Officer saying:

“Mr Arnold openly publicises the fact the he is a Labour activist, the news article relating to this recent incident and indeed Mr Arnold’s own FB page promotes his status as CLP Campaign coordinator for The Labour Party.

“As Mr Arnold has in the past been publicly vocal in his views concerning the closures of local hospitals in both Lydney and Cinderford, he is therefore well known to many people; likewise when he attended a previous Lydney Recreation Trust Meeting at the Council Chambers he later placed a Press Statement on his FB page with the banner saying he was Youth Officer FOD Labour Party.

“At Monday’s meeting Mr Arnold, in line with Standing Orders (the Council’s Meeting protocol) was asked to state his name and address; as well as being known to all present, he gave the same home address as shown on his banner. Furthermore during/following the incident he has continued to post to his FB page which associates him with the Labour Party and the news article attached also advises of the fact that he intends to cause further disruption.”

Lydney Town Council lodge formal complaint to the Labour Party | Cllrs Bob Berryman & Brian Pearman

“Dear Sir or Madam

“We would like to make an official complaint against Mr Zac Arnold regarding his behaviour towards our Council/Council Members and Employees.

“At our Full Council meeting last night Mr Arnold, under the Public Forum agenda item, asked three questions of our Council. Under our Council’s Standing Orders questions raised under the Forum must relate to items on the agenda. However, our Council had previously provided Mr Arnold with answers to two of his questions a number of months prior.

“Under the first question, raised under Lydney Town Council’s budget for 2019/2020 (Agenda Item 9b), Mr Arnold sought to challenge/berate our Council for resolving not to participate in providing a District-wide Youth Worker as he felt that the Council held sufficient finance as it has elected to purchase a Town Flag/one of it’s Charitable Trusts had chosen to invest in sculpturing a tree trunk in Bathurst Park into a tourism feature. Mr Arnold was also derogatory towards our CEO and Proper Officer of our Council, and requested that his questions be answered by an Elected Official rather than unelected Bureaucrat. Mr Arnold had previously been informed by our Council that it had resolved to invest in youth provision locally, rather than contribute to a District-wide initiative and Mr Arnold was advised that the CEO was appointed to respond to matters on behalf of our Council. Furthermore, that the initiative referred to by Mr Arnold would likely result in an expense of £25,000.00 to our Council. Mr Arnold was also informed by a fellow Councillor that his question did not relate to the agenda item he had referenced as Mr Arnold had not had sight of the Council’s budget at that time.

“The second question raised concerned a complaint which had been made against our Council by Mr Arnold which Mr Arnold raised under Agenda Item 14 (Committee and Other Reports). Whilst the matter had been considered and resolved and duly minuted (publicly accessible) , with Mr Arnold being informed of the outcome of his complaint in writing mid-November, Mr Arnold did not accept the Council’s decision and requested that he receive a formal apology. Mr Arnold was advised that he had already received the Council’s response regarding his complaint, by this time Mr Arnold had become increasingly agitated.

“The third question Mr Arnold raised under Agenda Item 19 – Press Release/Statement which he referenced an article in Gloucestershire Live, in which the Mayor was interviewed regarding the submission of a planning application from retailer B&M to utilise a vacant, vandalised retail premises in our Town as their new store. Mr Arnold then sought to berate the Mayor for welcoming the news that the retailer was seeking to open a store in our Town, and he launched into a tirade against the management practices of B&M and their facilities provided to their employees. During this tirade Mr Arnold was warned by the Mayor that if he continued with his speech/argumentative manner the meeting would be suspended. Mr Arnold refused to pay any attention to the warnings given, our meeting was duly suspended and Mr Arnold was asked several times to leave the meeting by our CEO/Proper Officer. However, Mr Arnold refused to leave the meeting which resulted in the Police being called to our office to escort Mr Arnold from the building. Mr Arnold then refused to leave the site, despite the Police making a number of requests for him to do so, and we believe he was then arrested for Breach of the Peace and taken to Gloucester (Incident Number 366 of 14 January 2019 refers).

“We would advise that this is not the first time our Council has had cause for concern over Mr Arnold’s intimidatory manner and we would refer you to the enclosed e-mail which has been sent to the Police. Whilst we appreciate Mr Arnold is passionate in his political beliefs, we feel his actions have overstepped the mark of acceptability.

“We trust that you will take action regarding our complaint and we look forward to hearing from you.

“Yours Faithfully (for and on behalf of Lydney Town Council)

“Cllr Bob Berryman (Mayor) and Cllr Brian Pearman (Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Personnel Committee”

Regional Liaison sends submission of CLP to Labour Party HQ regarding All Women Shortlist | Sonia Wright

“The Forest of Dean CLP held their consultation meeting on Tuesday 18th December. The meeting was attended by approximately 24 members. Before the meeting branches in the CLP had the opportunity to discuss their views on whether the CLP should be an AWS or open selection- this was fed back to the meeting Lydney Branch overwhelmingly supported AWS whilst the others supported Open selections. The GC discussed the benefits of having an AWS, and in the event of not having an AWS what actions could be undertaken to ensure women candidates come forward. There was a general agreement that having an AWS would increase female participation in the CLP by supporting and empowering women and it could encourage more electors to participate in elections. It was also noted that much more needs to be done to engage women to run for MP and get equal representation. There was a counter view, the Forest struggles to engage women to run for local elections so finding local women for an AWS could be hard and the view that an open selection process would allow a broad panel of candidates – concern was also raised that if a snap election happened, someone external to the CLP might not have the chance to build a profile in the constituency. The CLP acknowledged that representation of women locally is poor and more work needs to be done to identify and encourage women to stand for positions. More needs to be done to make meetings welcoming to women and that parliament itself can do more to encourage women by being more aware of the issues that prevent women from running for parliament. The CLP was fairly split, an indicative vote was narrowly in favour of AWS.”

Mindful of the Jo Cox case we do feel that this behaviour warrants noting ‘on file’ | Jayne Smailes

This email was not in the public domain and had not been seen by myself prior to Lydney Town Council publishing it in their press pack on 21 February 2019, not even the rest of the Councillors had seen it prior to 20 February 2019.

In an email to Gloucestershire Constabulary; namely Sergeant Andrew Doyle, and Lydney Town Council Personnel Committee members Cllrs Alan Preest, Bob Berryman, Brian Pearman, Carol Harris and Harry Ives, Jayne Smailes (Chief Executive Officer) states:

“Confidential.

“Dear Personnel Committee/Sgt Doyle

“We write in order to make you aware that following last night’s Meetings three individuals (Trustee Holmes, visitors Zac and Louis Arnold) remained outside the building when everyone was leaving.

“As Carol and I were about to exit/set the building alarm Louis Arnold came back into the office the use the toilet so we had to wait for him before locking up; had Bob/Brian not remained in the Car Park talking we would have had to walk past the three of them for they remained at the planter at the top of the entrance ramp by the door to the building for no apparent reason.

“We do not propose any action be taken however, given recent Facebook posts in which the Council have been heavily criticised of late and mindful of the Jo Cox case we do feel that this behaviour warrants noting ‘on file’ by members of the Personnel Committee and the Police.”

Lessons from Labour: The Hogan statement and membership accountability | Zac Arnold

This content is retrospective, meaning that it was written some time after the event took place. This post was written on Friday 16 October 2020, however it is tagged 9 November 2018 as this is when the event took place. It is an insight into the inner workings of the Labour Party and it’s aim is to analyse and learn from events in order to improve the effectiveness of opposition movements.

Bruce Hogan, a longstanding member of the Labour Party and former teacher. Representing Lydbrook on Forest of Dean District Council, his career in local politics, which spanned from local government to two unsuccessful parliamentary bids and several elections as the candidate’s “agent,” ended in a two year long spiral of unruly behaviour including verbally abusing opposition canvassers whilst leafleting, punching a man in the face outside a local public house and then attempting to change the rules for the standards body that upheld the complaint. He then almost was separated from the red flag when he shouted down and pounded his fist on the table at Cllr Di Martin, the Leader of the Labour Group on Forest of Dean District Council during a public Full Council meeting.

Cllr Bruce Hogan at the October 2018 Full Council meeting, as captured from the councils livestream on their website [Image: Gloucestershire Live, 2018]

On 8 November 2018, I was asked by Shaun Stammers, 2017 General Election candidate and one of the Vice Chairman’s of Forest of Dean Labour Party to formulate a press release regarding Hogan. This press release was due to be issued after the Executive Committee advised Cllr Martin to take a particular course of action. The statement was as follows:

Councillor Bruce Hogan has been a long-standing, loyal and hard-working representative of the community over the course of many years and has been a figurehead of both local politics and the labour movement for decades serving the party as a Councillor, Parliamentary Candidate in two General Elections and as an election agent in numerous elections.

As I am sure you are aware, recently, events have come to light regarding an incident outside a public house in Lydbrook between Councillor Hogan and a member of the public which Councillor Hogan has rightly taken responsibility for and admitted his wrongdoing.

It is with deep regret that, as a result of these actions and his conduct during the October Full Council meeting, that we have been forced to withdraw the whip from Councillor Hogan. We do not take this decision lightly and are saddened that we have been left with no choice.

We recognise Councillor Hogan’s years of dedicated service both to the Labour Party and to the electorate and wish him all the best for the future.

Draft Press Statement from the Leader of the Labour Group on Forest of Dean District Council, Cllr Di Martin
Forest of Dean District Council Labour Group Leader, Cllr Di Martin, who later went on to stand for the constituency in the 2019 General Election with Shaun Stammers as her election agent (Photo: The Forester, 2019)

Now, this statement never ended up being used. The decision was made around a round table in an awkwardly large room in a pub in Coleford, the Executive Committee of Forest of Dean Labour Party – which in itself was in the midst of a major identity crisis. The left pushed for the whip to be withdrawn, “moderates” struggled to argue against the behaviour. Naturally, I took no displeasure in stoking the fire more generally that Hogan’s time was up. The minutes naturally reflected that no consensus had been present in the room and that the EC would support whatever the decision of the Labour Group was. They had to say that, because the group is sacred and does not answer to the membership or even the officers of the party.


Withdrawal of the Whip: The act of expelling an elected member of a political group from that group

When a Councillor or MP has the whip withdrawn, they stop being a representative of that political group and become an independent representative, unless they accept the whip of another political group.


In the end, he cut a deal – between himself and the Labour Group against the will of the party – to slip away quietly by not standing at the next elections in May 2019. A decision that did not best serve the Labour Party, the council or the electorate. It proved that for political capital, the right thing to do is often delayed, deferred, delegated and diverted until there is no real accountability anymore. Where the impression is given that there are no consequences for the actions of elected representatives at any level of Government.

The lesson from this is fairly simple, if we are going to remain within party structures as we know them we need to improve the methods of local party units, and by extension members of the local community, can hold their representatives to account for their actions. Whether this be breaching the Code of Conduct or abandoning policy commitments.

Shaun Stammers was the 2017 Parliamentary Candidate for Forest of Dean Labour Party, when Bruce Hogan acted as his electoral agent. Stammers later took over the role of agent for Di Martin in 2019’s snap vote (Photo: Shaun Stammers, 2017)

In instances where Councillors act in a manner such as this, which either brings themselves or their party into disrepute or acts in a manner that disregards the democratic processes of the Labour Party, the membership and the policies developed by it, there needs to be appropriate checks and balances.

Whilst it is true that the democratic legitimacy, at least in our present electoral system, of a Councillor needs to be respected as their mandate to act on the council is given by the electorate who voted for them at the last election. This, however, does not impact the ability of the political group to implement a series of consequences on their members. Any assertion otherwise is just avoiding the consequences.

The easy solution to this, in my eyes, is for an effective internal recall system within political parties. Within the Labour Party it is stated that Councillors are not “beholden to the party” – meaning that they can effectively do as they please as they are representatives of the electorate not the party. As I have stated, this is untrue. They are representative of the electorate on the council whilst representing Labour as part of the Labour Group, and they need to represent both.

It is unacceptable for policies and consensus hard fought for within the party to be discarded by a council group, they are supposed to be representative of the party not the party representative of them. More generally, it is unacceptable that political groups, in supposedly democratic parties, are treated as more significant with their opinion holding more weight than that of ordinary people and rank and file members.

Instead, could there be a recall process that allows for members and party units to hold their representatives to account, whilst preventing such mechanisms from being manipulated on either side for political or personal gain?

Currently, members of the Labour Party that live in that electoral area for the position in question – in this case, Lydbrook – select their candidate prior to an election. This is a selection meeting and unsurprisingly, especially in rural wards in less active CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties), they are very rarely quorate (at the minimum number of members needed to legally conduct business) and therefore whichever members of the CLP Executive Committee attend step in to make up the votes.

Now, the issue of the way in which candidates are selected is another one which I will link to here when I’ve spewed out some words on it, but the issue here is of accountability between elections. There is currently none of this. Councillors avoid internal meetings or leave as early as physically possible after important votes have taken place. They have the final say over the manifesto for local elections, even over the rest of the candidates who are not incumbents – giving them the power, for example, to remove a pledge to fight to retain two community hospitals which was in line with local and national party policy. Again, I have plenty to say on this which I will link to here. They can maintain their position regardless of behaviour for so long as the group is controlled by a small clique of old friends who’ve been playing the game for decades, they then use this weight to try and control the party.

Solution

If we are going to continue with the political structures we have now, we need to implement a proper internal recall and sanction system. A committee consisting of three members: one member from the electoral area the candidate represents (representing the views of those members as a collective); one member of the Executive Committee, if time permits representing the views of the General Committee (if applicable); and one member of the Labour Group representing the group.

The committee has the power to issue warnings to members for breaches of policy and breaches of an internal code of conduct, which all three elements of the party have had input into. These warnings increase in severity and relate to issues such as conduct and voting. If a Councillors exceeds a set number of warnings agreed by all parties, a vote takes place between the three members, representing the views of their respective party units which will have discussed the matter and mandated a vote in advance. This method applies for the suspension of the whip, which shall be done for investigative purposes if necessary, but also for the withdrawal of the whip for simple cases or those where the investigation is concluded.

This is a simple solution to holding Councillors to account, who can often drift into their respective council structures or defend each other in small collectives that operate as they see fit and defend each other in the face of the indefensible.

The statement

I emailed the draft statement to the Chair, Secretary and Vice Chairman (Policy) of Forest of Dean Labour Party and the Leader and Secretary of the Forest of Dean District Council Labour Group on the morning after the meeting. Cllrs Di Martin and Bernie O’Neill responded stating that they would get back to me, then the whip was never withdrawn.

Forest hospitals: The verdict? We fight on harder than before | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today the Citizens’ Jury that was tasked to deliberate over one very difficult question – not whether or not we should keep or lose our hospitals (we are not allowed a say on that) – but the vague location of a new hospital (but not the site itself) decided on a verdict: Cinderford narrowly won the vote, with Coleford coming second and Lydney third. If anyone’s interested, the final tally after three rounds of counting (and checking with electoral rules in the process), was Cinderford 11, Coleford 8 and Lydney 6. Local media turned up for the verdict but no one reported on all the evidence that came out during the past few days except HOLD. The Forester didn’t speak to us, and The Forest Citizen have been nowhere to be seen throughout, but we did get a short bit on BBC1 Points West both today and on Monday.

Although Cinderford is the most central of the three towns up for consideration, none of the locations can be reached by all of the Forest of Dean district within a 30-minute drive, according to the map modelling used by the Jury. The evidence presented to the jury made it blatantly obvious the Forest of Dean district needs two hospitals. Residents in the west of the district have no realistic alternative to using a minor injuries unit in the Forest of Dean as the nearest other hospital providing the facility is west of Caerphilly, would face a longer journey to get the help they needed, or to visit loved ones in hospital (if they are able to get a bed). If the hospital had been sited in Coleford or Lydney, the north of the district would have lost out. So the NHS now has jettisoned its responsibility to provide hospital-based care and emergency treatment for people living west of Lydney, rather than providing accessible health for all.

The Gloucestershire Care Services Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group arrogantly presume they can shut down and sell off two hospitals which were built predominantly from hard-earned wages of miners and other workers. We have been informed from several different people that at the recent Forest Health Forum meeting, the Trust’s new CEO Paul Roberts misled local press and councillors by telling them our legal battle is off – this is not true and he should know that from the Trust/CCG solicitor. This is just one example of a mounting catalogue of deceit, misinformation, changing goalposts and just incredible unaccountability to us all, who the NHS and our hospitals belong to.

Nevertheless the Citizens’ Jury itself, although applied to a farcical situation where democracy was wholly disregarded for the crucial decision to replace our two hospitals with one, offered the first chance for 18 “ordinary people”, non-politicians, in the Forest of Dean to scrutinise the proposal and uncover all its holes even though the brief they had to follow was limited – to “make a recommendation for a location” rather than be given any idea of the exact location, type and size of site, or the bed numbers. So in many ways their decision had to be a blind one. They could not, for example, determine whether the hospital would be built on a coal mine or field, whether it needed millions of pounds of groundwork or road layout, or whether it would have adequate facilities. From Monday to Wednesday, HOLD reported on the Citizens’ Jury proceedings at Forest Hills Golf Club, and we observed throughout the five days.

THINGS WE LEARNED DURING DAYS 1, 2 AND 3:

See our reports from each of the first 3 days of the Citizens’ Jury:


Day 1 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/the-journey-begins/

Day 2 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/our-observations-citizens-jury-day-two/

Day 3 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/our-observations-citizens-jury-day-three/


THINGS WE LEARNED DURING DAYS 4 AND 5:

1. A conversation we had with a Dilke and Lydney hospital staff member revealed that there is sometimes (acute) Accident & Emergency treatment at our community hospitals – although this is not the norm people have been treated for heart attacks and other life-threatening emergency situations.

2. When the lift to the operating theatre broke down at Lydney Hospital, rather than fixing the lift, the operating theatre was closed. It is now used as a store room. This is one of a great many examples we have heard of “managed decline” or chronic underinvestment in our two hospitals.

3. Although not considered relevant so not included in any of the evidence to the Jury, thanks to the closure of many of Chepstow hospital’s facilities, with the nearest A&E in Newport, and nearest minor injuries unit in Ystrad Mynach, near Caerphilly, an increasing number of people from across the border are having to use the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals – the staff member estimated 40% of those needing aid for minor injuries and illnesses.

4. Several jurors have declared on several occasions, including yesterday, that they and most people they know still want two hospitals.

5. Gloucestershire CCG told the Jury the 1,600-plus people who completed its latest consultation on Locality are not representative of the Forest of Dean, and did not total the figures for preference (or no preference) in its outcome report, but only provided totals for each postcode area (unsurprisingly the majority for the town nearest them). In the next presentation on Equalities, however, it revealed Lydney had the largest percentage, with just over 50%. Despite taking out a double-page spread advertisement in the Forest Review, the results are only being considered by the CCG as a “broad indication” – it is the “rich data” the CCG is interested in. The CCG claims there was nothing to stop someone taking 50 forms and filling them all out. Surely this could happen for every consultation? Consultations were not sent to everyone because of the huge cost implication, the CCG said.A total of 9000 consultation booklets were produced. She did not have the figures of all those who had filled in more than one box, but they were included in the overall (disregarded) results. We will update when we discover how much this waste-of-money exercise cost us in public funds.

6. As one of the criteria for choosing the town location was that it was in an area of “regeneration”, Cinderford was marked out as a key place by Forest of Dean District Council planning officer Nigel Gibbons in his presentation due to the Cinderford Northern Quarter former opencast/ deep mine and former public Forest site near Hawkwell and Steam Mills, where so far millions of pounds of public money have been sunk into a college, one-third of a proposed spine-road network and “bat hotels” which alone cost £500,000. Chris Witham, chair of the town council who won over the jury, also mooted the Northern Quarter could become a new public transport hub. Cllr Witham also told the jury he did not know where the site would be but it is public knowledge that Cinderford councillors have been lobbying for a new hospital to be built on top of the Northern United deep mine since 2016 – an area previously designated for light industrial use but parts of it still occupied by protected bats. Expert engineers have previously warned this site is unsuitable and dangerous to build on. The college next door is said to have cost £50 million due to the massive ground-stabilisation work required. We hasten to add that we do not know – and the NHS say they do not yet know – which site they want to build on. This mystery site has to be within two miles from Cinderford Town Centre (the War Memorial) by road or 1.5 miles as the crow flies to meet the Location criteria. Chris Witham told the jury that the Northern Quarter was a £450 million development.

7. One juror spoke about mistrust of “many people where I live given that 46% didn’t want” a single replacement hospital and a “concern we are just ticking a box by going through this”. He asked for a commitment that “it won’t happen again” and that “proper deliberation would be given to our decision” by the NHS Boards who meet on August 30th to “consider” the Jury “recommendation”. He was “assured” by Caroline Smith, public engagement officer of the CCG, that the decision would be listened to – for the original consultation they “did have a preferred option”. She said they “genuinely did not have a preferred location”, and if they did not go with the Jury recommendation and “made a different decision” (on August 30) “we would need to be absolutely clear why we did that.”

8. We managed not to laugh out loud when we heard that the CCG is “properly scrutinised” by “elected members” (councillors) and the statutory Quedgeley-based Gloucestershire Healthwatch.

9. There is an “expectation” there will be free parking at the single hospital – the CCG said.

10. The future of GP care for people in Lydbrook using the Brunstone House practice is uncertain due to the proposed Coleford Health Centre, Coleford mayor Nick Penny said.

First thing on Friday morning, the Jury began with a short session for Jurors to raise points that they had over night or that morning or questions that they had from the previous day. The most interesting of which are listed below:

1. One Juror suggested that the presentation given by Councillors Nick Penny and Marilyn Cox on Tuesday contained misleading information. The Councillors emphasised both during this presentation and during their closing remarks on Thursday that Great Oaks Hospice in Coleford previously carried out a vast amount of research when deciding where to locate to and that this could be re-used to argue why Coleford was a suitable location for a new hospital. The Juror suggested that the land had been gifted to Great Oaks and that this was the reason for them locating to Coleford rather than a “vast amount of research.”

2. Another Juror suggested that the lack of thought by the Jury and it’s witnesses to consider the locations of the district’s schools in their decision was concerning and disappointing.

3. Another Juror suggested that some cause for investment should be split between Coleford and Lydney as Cinderford has had a history of receiving vast amounts of public investment with the other two towns receiving fairly little.

4. Dr Malcolm Oswald, Director of Citizens Juries CiC answered a question from a Juror as to why the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was relevant to the Jury. Dr Oswald stated that this was presented to the Jury to ensure that they had the same information as the NHS boards will have later this month, and thus give the boards less reason to  “deviate” from the recommendation of the Citizens’ Jury.

5. Another Juror also suggested that they should have been given the evidence by the Community Transport providers as to how many users, use their services for health related purposes. This information was not given to them during the community transport presentation on Wednesday.

6. A Juror stated that what was proposed was a “new type of hospital” and was “not what the public expect” or support.

7. Dr Oswald stated that there were “no plans” to bring a maternity unit into the new facility and that it was “very, very unlikely to happen.”

GOING FORWARD

Many other observances came out which we will examine in due course and may form part of the legal action we intend to take against the NHS and CCG when they attempt to close our two hospitals, the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals. If you want to help save them, our advice is not to be despondent and consider how many fights we have won in the Forest of Dean against the powers-that-be, recently and historically. We also call for everyone to stay united in the district and not let themselves become be divided by town allegiances.

Our observations: Forest hospitals citizens’ jury Day 2 | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today, the Citizens’ Jury to develop a recommendation on the location of a new, community hospital continued on day 2 of 5. Two members of HOLD’s Core Group were observing, here is what we learned:

THE KEY POINTS

1/ Friends of Lydney Hospital’s Tony Midgley said that if Lydney is not chosen for the new location, the Friends will review its current support for the single hospital proposal. The Friends also do not know what they would do with their £1.5 million assets if Lydney is not the chosen hospital site, as they were raised for Lydney hospital.

2/ There was confusion over whether Newent is part of the catchment area for the Forest of Dean hospital. We were told yesterday it wasn’t but today we and the Jury were indeed told it was. Lydney and Coleford had presented their 30-minute travel times maps but not considered Newent, while Cinderford did. As part of Lydney’s presentation, Dr Stefan Scheuner (resident of Stroud, GP in Blakeney) said Newent wasn’t part of the Forest of Dean as it was not part of the Forest of Dean GP cluster. He said it was a “matter for the health authority”.

Towards the end of the day, the Jury director Dr Malcolm Oswald confirmed the GP cluster designation (where Newent, and Staunton and Corse are part of Tewkesbury) is not relevant to the community hospital – the whole Forest of Dean District must be considered.

This advice does, however, contradict page 5 of the Case For Change which formed the basis of this whole proposal, which states:
“Of particular relevance is the commitment within the One Gloucestershire STP to the development of place based models of care, focused around groups of general practices and their registered population. The Forest of Dean cluster comprises the 11 GP practices within the Forest of Dean with a combined registered population of approx. 63,000 (Newent and Staunton to the north fall within the Tewkesbury cluster). Additionally, the CCG has assumed responsibility from Wales for commissioning healthcare services for those people who live in England, but who are registered with a Welsh GP. This adds a further 8,811 people to the overall population considerations.” (page 5 of document, or page 34 here https://theholdcampaign.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/fod-health-governing-body-papers-part-1.pdf

While jurors noted Lydney and Coleford had not including the north of the district in their travel / transport considerations, it was noted that Cinderford’s 30-minute travel time missed out Tidenham and everywhere west of Lydney.
3. Coleford has included provision for a new hospital as a last-minute addition of its Neighbourhood Development Plan despite not specifically consulting on that (only on its Health Centre). If the town is unsuccessful, the recently added paragraph will then be removed from the NDP’s Policy CITPA3 before it goes to referendum on September 13. See http://www.colefordtownplan.com

PRESENTATIONS ROUND-UP

* Lydney billed itself as “the town of the future”. Lydney was set to have the highest population rise of the three towns, plus up to 1,000 new homes in Beachley – by 2031 the Lydney team’s population estimates are 16,000 for Lydney, and 9,000 each for Coleford and Cinderford. John Thurston, presenting, said “we are not allowed to tell you about the two sites” identified and that they “did this before the exercise started”. As well as the lack of mention of Newent (see above), one juror said they were unhappy to see Mitcheldean was not within 30-minutes’ driving time (the criteria is that the majority of the Forest must have that maximum travel time). Lydney said it was the “best benefit for the most population easy to reach”.

* Dr Scheuner, an “unscripted” late addition to the Lydney team of five, raised fears about the “downgrading” of the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust’s recently built c.£11m Vale Hospital near Dursley, where beds are being converted from non-acute community use to specialising in strokes. He also spoke about staffing problems, with Gloucestershire community hospitals relying on agency and locum staff.

* Coleford’s case was presented by town mayor Nick Penny and town councillor Marilyn Cox. They argued Coleford was “fresh, new and dynamic”, had 35 green spaces, and also it was the only part of the Forest where a majority (54%) had supported the consultation’s “preferred option” of a single hospital. They said Coleford was twice or four times better than Lydney or Cinderford in terms of bus links and frequency, and Coleford was set for a population growth of 23%, including “affordable” and “lifetime” homes. The Mayor said the town council did not know which two sites had been identified for Coleford, they had earmarked half a dozen sites for planners to verify as viable.

* Chris Witham, chair of Cinderford Town Council said the council had “consulted widely” with NHS professionals, as well as “third sector colleagues”. He did not reveal the potential sites, but the “£450-million investment” of the Northern Quarter, he said, would allow new transport links to be configurated. He argued that because Cinderford was accessible from the A40 or A48 it would make all the difference if one of those routes was closed if taking a patient for acute care in Gloucester. He also stressed that the support of helimed is invaluable in acute trauma specialist cases needing to go to Bristol, such cases are more likely in the Forest of Dean’s younger residents. Friends of the Dilke Hospital “fully support” Cinderford’s bid, but does not have £1.5 million in assets. Cllr Witham emphasised he wanted a hospital location that was “available to all” and that Cinderford was known as the “heart of the Forest”.

HOLD will be back tomorrow as the Jury continues and will be posting our observations tomorrow evening.

Our observations: Forest hospitals citizens’ jury Day 1 | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today, the Citizens’ Jury to develop a recommendation on the location of a new, community hospital began on it’s 5 day run. Two members of HOLD’s Core Group were observing, here is what we learned:  

* On Friday the jurors will make a “recommendation” (not actual decision as, say the NHS Trust, they are not a “publicly-accountable body”).

* This “recommendation” will then be considered by the NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) boards at their meeting on 30 August.

* The “recommendation” could go four ways is for a rough location rather than the actual site: within two miles by road of Lydney town centre, Coleford town centre, Cinderford town centre, or no preference

* Several jurors expressed fears that the site had already been chosen, but they were assured by Dr Oswald that, to his knowledge, it hadn’t been and dismissed rumours as “conspiracy theories”

* Tomorrow (Tuesday) representatives from the three towns (Newent is not considered part of the Forest catchment area any more) will each give a presentation – two sites will be identified for each town, but the jurors will not be considering any site, as this might cause land prices to skyrocket. Forest of Dean District Council planners have verified all are viable sites.

* The 18 jurors seem to be about half-and-half male and female, half-and-half born-and-bred Foresters, other half residents who have moved here and lived here for at least five years, and from many different backgrounds. A number of jurors asked pertinent questions – those relating to the unknown facilities, beds issue (work on “bed modelling” is still continuing) whether the sites would be big enough or could be potentially expanded, whether public transport links would be provided. We did not witness any of these questions being answered today.

* The Citizens’ Jury itself appeared to us to be efficiently and well-intentionally run by the founders, the non-profit charity, the Jefferson Center from St Paul’s, Minnesota, USA, who conducted the introductory session – and the UK director of the Citizens’ Jury CIC, Dr Malcolm Oswald, with an accent on encouraging “deliberation” rather than debate. Dr Oswald met us at the end of the presentations and we told him we thought it was a pity the Citizens’ Jury could not have been used to make the crucial decision, where our majority views were ignored, as it seemed a positive concept for increasing public participation (if applied correctly).

* We only spotted one councillor observing some of the proceedings today.

*According to Candace Plouffe, Chief Operations Director for Gloucestershire Care Services, maternity services are controlled by Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust, not Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust.

*The quality of care is excellent and the quality of services has been rated good by CQC in the current sites. According to Plouffe, these are not the problems with the current site. The issues are the ‘poor infrastructure and difficulty balancing services and staff across two sites.’

*There will another round of consultation in the future in Winter 2018, Spring 2019 or Summer 2019 which will focus on the facilities and services that will be available in a new community hospital, with Candace Plouffe (Chief Operations Director for Gloucestershire Care Services) stating that this consultation “could possibly include maternity.”

*It is likely that the business plan for the replacement of Lydney and the Dilke will be published in early to mid 2019.

*Construction on a new hospital is scheduled to commence in mid to late 2019 and is scheduled for completion around 2020/21.

Gloucester Area Trade Union Council unanimously back the HOLD campaign | Zac Arnold

“A huge thank you to Gloucester Area Trade Union Council for unanimously endorsing the HOLD campaign. They also agreed to pass a recommendation to all union branches who are affiliated to the council suggesting that they do the same and pledge funds when they are needed. This is one huge step in getting trade union support for our cause. It was a pleasure to meet with them this evening.”

Zac, representing the HOLD campaign, meets with members of Gloucester Area Trade Council as they back HOLD in the fight against the closure of the Forest of Dean’s two hospitals (Photo: Zac Arnold, 2018)

Legal, public and political efforts and positive, joint working in NHS campaigning | Zac Arnold with Aneira Thomas & Dr Tony O’Sullivan

First NHS baby slams government handling of health service | Swindon  Advertiser
Zac Arnold speaks on a panel at an NHS campaigning conference organised by Swindon Trades Council, photographed with the events organiser and Aneira Thomas, the first baby born into the NHS (Photo: Swindon Advertiser, 2018)

Zac speaks about the “three-pronged” legal, public and political approach that HOLD was taking towards the campaign and how positivity and joint working across divides is the only way to succeed, on a panel alongside Aneira Thomas the first baby born into the NHS and Dr Tony O’Sullivan. The event was reported in the Swindon Advertiser.

Zac suspended from membership of the Labour Party for alleged uncomradely behaviour | Nareser Osei

In a letter to myself, Nareser Osei as Acting Head of Disputes at Labour Party Headquarters, said:

Notice of administrative suspension from holding office or representing the Labour Party


Allegations that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Party. These allegations relate to social media posts posts and uncomradely behaviour towards another member of the local party. It is important that these allegations are investigated and the NEC will be asked to authorise a full report to be drawn up with recommendations for disciplinary action if appropriate.


I write to give you formal notice that it has been determined that the powers given to the NEC
under Chapter 6 Clause I.1.A of the Party’s rules should be invoked to suspend you from office or representation of the Party, pending the outcome of an internal Party investigation. Because of the nature of the allegations received your presence at branch meetings and all party activity which includes campaigning, may be detrimental to the Party, while subject to this administrative suspension, you cannot attend any campaign activity or party meetings including those of your own branch or CLP, or Annual Conference, and you cannot seek office within the Party or be considered for selection as a candidate to represent the Labour Party at an election at any level*


In view of the urgency to protect the Party’s reputation in the present situation the General
Secretary has determined to use powers delegated to him under Chapter 1 Clause VIII.5 of the rules to impose this suspension forthwith, subject to the approval of the next meeting of the NEC. The General Secretary has appointed Phil Gaskin, Regional Director, to arrange conduct of the Party’s own investigation. You will be contacted in due course with details as to how the
investigation will proceed. Please quote case number DCN-0363 on all correspondence. It is hoped you will offer your full co-operation to the Party in resolving this matter.

*In relation to any alleged breach of the constitution, rules or standing orders of the party by an
individual member or members of the party, the NEC may, pending the final outcome of any
investigation and charges (if any), suspend that individual or individuals from office or
representation of the party notwithstanding the fact that the individual concerned has been or may be eligible to be selected as a candidate in any election or by-election. (Disciplinary Rules, Chapter 6 Clause I.1.A)


**A ‘suspension’ of a member whether by the NEC in pursuance of 1 above or by the NCC in
imposing a disciplinary penalty, unless otherwise defined by that decision, shall require the
membership rights of the individual member concerned to be confined to participation in their own branch meetings, unless the reason for the suspension in part or in full is their conduct in party meetings or there are concerns that their presence at branch meetings may be detrimental to the Party, and activities as an ordinary member only and in ballots of all individual members where applicable. A suspended member shall not be eligible to seek any office in the party, nor shall s/he be eligible for nomination to any panel of prospective candidates nor to represent the party in any position at any level. The member concerned will not be eligible to attend any CLP meeting other than to fulfil the requirement to participate in ballots. (Disciplinary rules, Clause 6.I.3)

Cinderford Council members grilled live by protestors as Chair threatens to close meeting in face of criticism | Zac Arnold

Gloucester Labour back HOLD as day of protest unfolds amid consultation outcome | Fran Boait

Fran Boait, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Gloucester said on Facebook:

“Today, HOLD – Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals have been in Gloucester to protest against the Commissioning groups plans to close their hospitals. Their Protest continues this evening in Cinderford and Fran wanted to offer our support from Gloucester CLP and talk a little about why we need a Labour Government running our NHS #forthemany