Many weeks since the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust indicated to the press that they would hold a full public consultation on proposed wholesale changes to local mental health services, after being challenged to do so by Bob Blizzard, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Waveney, there is no sign of letting the public have their say, but cuts appear to be happening by stealth.
There has been so much concern about the far reaching changes that involve a more than 50% cut in acute adult in patient beds in the Waveney and Yarmouth area and the loss of 500 clinical front line posts in Norfolk and Suffolk, that several organisations and individual members of the public responded to a staff consultation that wasn't even publicised.
Bob Blizzard said, "These massive cuts, forced on the Trust by the government's demand for a 20% budget reduction, were only uncovered thanks to staff whistleblowers. The plans have never been presented to the public, yet in the past two weeks evidence of cuts being implemented has emerged."
At Carlton Court, Lowestoft, two assessment bungalows are being closed. The. Poppies day centre is being run down with no new patients being referred. The Access and Assessment Unit at Yarmouth is not receiving referrals. Staff believe an announcement on the closure of acute beds at Carlton Court or Northgate (in Yarmouth) is imminent.
"The Trust's plans amount to a complete reconfiguration of services with the loss of many beds. They should come clean and consult the public who are paying for NHS services with their taxes. Many health professionals support this view. Doing the government's dirty work by stealth is not acceptable."
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Watch Bob on last night's Look East, talking about the importance of keeping Cefas in Lowestoft.
(Video on Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=553463264686136
**SIGN THE PETITION TO KEEP CEFAS IN LOWESTOFT**
From the Journal:
One of the Lowestoft area’s biggest employers could leave the town as part of a government review which could see it moved to a new site outside Suffolk, it emerged this week.
It is believed that the Centre for Environment, Aquaculture and Fisheries Science (Cefas) site at Pakefield could be closed as the building will soon be unfit for purpose and is costly to maintain.
As part of a far reaching review, Cefas and the government are looking at four options for the future of the Pakefield Road laboratory site, which has 422 staff based there.
The options being looked at are for Cefas to remain in Pakefield with possible improvements to facilities, moving to another site in Lowestoft, moving to Norwich, and moving operations to another part of the country by merging with other science bodies.
Although Cefas stressed this week that the review was in its early stages, the possible loss of more than 400 jobs and scientific expertise from Lowestoft and the potential blow to the town’s economy has prompted strong calls for the agency to remain in Pakefield which has been its home since 1955.
Bob Blizzard, Labour’s parliamentary prospective candidate for Waveney, said: “Cefas is a vital part of our local economy. It would be a disaster if Cefas was forced out of Lowestoft.
“It is our main source of quality, high level, scientific jobs. The impact of losing it would be devastating.
“We must tell the government loud and clear that Cefas belongs in Lowestoft and its main strength is the work force who are settled in this area.”
Mr Blizzard said any move to close Cefas in Pakefield would fly in the face of a government drive to create more new jobs and to boost the economy in Waveney by setting up the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
He added: “There is no point creating an enterprise zone to attract new business if the government moves its own agency out of Lowestoft and creates a huge hole in the local economy.”
Read more online at LowestoftJournal.co.uk
**SIGN THE PETITION TO KEEP CEFAS IN LOWESTOFT**
Once again, a Tory councillor has used the Journal's letters page to attack my record as Waveney MP, without any regard for the facts - this time concerning road improvements and a third crossing. I would like to set the record straight.
In 2000, within three years of my being elected, the Labour government announced it would fund a £25 million South Lowestoft Relief Road - the largest ever investment in Lowestoft by any government. Suffolk County Council, whose job it was to manage the project, then took four years to get it ready for construction to begin. By which time the cost had escalated to £30 million.
In early 2005 I took a delegation to see the Roads Minister to ask for more money at a time when the national budget for roads was being squeezed. The Labour government stood by Lowestoft while other schemes were chopped, and the road was built. Some people asked what was the point of the South Lowestoft Relief Road without a third crossing? But it's no good having a new river crossing without a modern road leading to it. In my mind the SLRR is a major phase of the whole third crossing project. It would have been mad to pass up £30 million.
Until work started on building the SLRR, Suffolk CC lawyers advised me not to campaign for a third crossing in case any legal challenge against the new road used the crossing campaign to undermine the case for the SLRR.
As soon as the SLRR was open I ramped up the campaign for a third crossing, amassing a 15,000 signature petition and succeeded in persuading the Minister to fund a feasibility study. However, Suffolk CC initially refused support or work with the Highways Agency on the study, confirming what I had long known, that they have no commitment to a Lowestoft third crossing.
So, even though the feasibility study concluded that a third crossing met the Department for Transport's benefit/cost criteria, Suffolk CC never even tried to put it forward for government funding via the regional priority committee that Suffolk CC itself chaired at that time!
Since I lost the 2010 election, we have been promised a £6 million footbridge alongside the bascule bridge which nearly everyone thinks is pointless. The recently launched Lowestoft Prospectus effectively kicks a third crossing into the long grass, but even then only talks about replacing the bascule bridge in a new location, rather than an additional bridge to give us a third crossing
This would involve taking the existing bascule bridge away once a new crossing was in place! So no third crossing! The Tory councillors behind this idea should really consider how angry the people of Lowestoft would be and they would be well advised to stay well clear of Lowestoft if the bridge demolition squad did move in.
After initially having no Conservative to argue in favour of The Bedroom Tax, Bob Blizzard is joined by Ben Gummer MP on Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk morning programme.
Plans to replace the Bascule Bridge with another further inland are "nonsensical" says Bob Blizzard. What Lowestoft needs is an additional bridge, not a replacement for the existing one.
From the BBC:
A transport blueprint for Lowestoft has been criticised for not focussing on creating a third water crossing.
Local authorities and partners are behind the Lowestoft Prospectus, which includes an objective to replace the harbour's bascule bridge.
Its authors said the plan will provide a platform to bid for funding for that and other transport projects.
Bob Blizzard, the town's former Labour MP, said it "lacks focus" on the need for a third harbour bridge.
The prospectus has been produced by Waveney District Council and includes a proposal to replace the bascule bridge at the harbour entrance with another crossing further inland.
The existing single-carriageway bridge has been criticised for not being able to cope with the volume of traffic crossing it and for limiting the size of boats that can enter the harbour underneath it.
The prospectus also aims to improve Oulton Broad North Station's level crossing to reduce congestion.
Councillor Colin Law, Conservative leader of the council, said: "This document shows commitment, along with stakeholders and partners, to work together to improve the infrastructure.
"The options provide us with a real opportunity to explore that which is best for Lowestoft and Waveney."
Mr Blizzard, who is Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, said: "It lacks focus and one or two bits are nonsensical.
"Lowestoft needs a third water crossing - any blueprint should be absolutely focussed on that and in this plan it's more or less booted into the long grass.
"There's no commitment to promote it or to go after it."
Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce is part of the steering group which aims to develop the proposals.
James Reeder, chamber chairman, said: "We've still got to see how much money there will be for infrastructure from the government.
"This is everybody working together to get a plan going forward to get bids for funding ready.
"A third crossing is certainly not being eliminated by the prospectus, but there are a lot of things that we could make immediate gains on such as improving traffic around Oulton Broad North Station."
Listen to Bob's response this morning to the proposals, on Radio Suffolk.
Bob Blizzard does however welcome the determination to reduce waiting times and congestion at the level crossing at Oulton Broad North.
For many years local people have contacted Bob expressing their frustration with the amount of time spent waiting at the crossing.
Network Rail said the length of time was determined by the station design.
In Oulton Broad North's case, this was due to the risk that a train might overrun the platform.
Bob looks forward to supporting plans to improve the situation at the crossing.
From The Lowestoft Journal: