STAFFORD’S civic leaders need to “get tough” and copy the tactics of a radical London borough in the fight to save the town’s hospital, it was claimed this week.
The borough council is being urged to set up a fighting fund to challenge the Government over plans to downgrade Stafford hospital.
Kate Godfrey, Labour’s candidate in the Stafford constituency for the next election, has held up Lewisham council as an example of how town hall chiefs should respond.
But borough council leaders accuse Ms Godfrey of using the issue as a “polit- ical football”, and claim they are already preparing a response.
The situation in Lewisham, a notoriously combative local authority in south London, mirrors closely the issue in Stafford, says Ms Godfrey.
Ms Godfrey says that the London borough’s tactics forced a government u- turn on plans to downgrade services at a local hospital.
“We’re waiting for the final report before we know how a legal challenge of our own will shape up,” said Ms Godfrey.
“But the background work for that happens now. Every error of fact, every dropped stitch, every failure to consult - it all needs to be noted and challenged, ready for the three month deadline which starts when Jeremy Hunt accepts the TSA report.”
She said she was calling on council leaders in Stafford to follow Lewisham’s example and start working openly to hold the administrators to account.
“In Lewisham, the local council led the fight against the loss of services,” she said. “With all of their resources, our council should be leading the fight back too.”
Councillor Mike Smith, deputy leader of the borough council said: “We are, and have been, working with our col- leagues across the political parties and expect to bring an agreed resolution from both sides of the council regarding the hospital to the next full council.
“This is so important to our community and to use it as a political football would be doing a massive disservice to our residents across the borough,” he said.
“We have put aside funds for experts to fight the hospital recommendations and help form a robust case that would have the hospital deliver critical care and maternity services.
“The consultation is on-going and we would urge everyone to have their say in this process so we send a loud and clear message to the administrators.
“If that message is not heard then we would be prepared to pursue legal action.
“Stafford is not the same scenario as Lewisham.”