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Accusations fly as town council debates action on health centre closure

Wednesday, 27th June 2012.

Accusations were traded during an acrimonious debate at Haverhill Town Council last night about the Crown Health Centre closure.

Labour councillors accused the leader of the Conservative group Bryan Hawes of withdrawing his support for improved healthcare for the people of Haverhill.

Meanwhile Cllr Hawes repeated allegations that Labour councillors collecting signatures on a petition about the closure at a stall in the town centre had bullied members of the public into signing.

The row centred around Cllr Hawes' report of claims by residents that they had been unhappy with the way they were approached to sign the petition.

Because of this, he and most Conservative councillors had withdrawn the support they had initially given to the petition.

He had asked the Labour councillors, via the town clerk, to respond to the claims, but had not had a reply.

Labour group leader Cllr Maureen Byrne demanded to know who had made such claims.

"There was no problem at all if people didn't want to sign," she said. "If anyone felt like that I would like to know the details of those individuals because I would like to apologise to them."

Cllr Hawes replied that he was not prepared to divulge the names and addresses of anyone who had made the allegations.

Cllr Roger Andre accused him of withdrawing his support for efforts to gain improved healthcare for the people of Haverhill.

Cllr Hawes said this was completely untrue and he supported any action on the issue apart from the high street petition,because he was unhappy with the way it was being carried out.

He said he wanted to gather a wider group of people to represent all 25,000 people in the town, including the doctors, the Chamber of Commerce, borough and county councils and residents associations to present a united front to NHS Suffolk, which has decided to close the centre on July 28, three months earlier than at first proposed. This, he thought, was more likely to be effective.

The town council campaign has been aimed at protesting the early closure and demanding the 1.2million savings were spent on healthcare in Haverhill. Members heard the petition is currently nearing 4,000 signatures.

Cllr Byrne said the council had agreed on this action and now Cllr Hawes and his group should be bound by that deciosion to support it.

She said a senior doctor had told her some doctors were taking early retirement because they were never going to be able to cope with the additional pressure on them when the centre closed, unless the funding was made available.

"He predicted a dire situation in Haverhill," she said. "NHS Suffolk are saying the pharmacists will deal with many people and take the pressure off.

"The letter they have sent to the 800 or so registered at the centre who are left with no doctor is a joke. I feel very sorry for them."

She proposed they should carry on the stall in the town centre getting signatures on the petition, and the council should have 'a presence' at the centre on July 28, the closure day, with the petition, from 9am to 4pm.

"We need to show strength on that day," she said. "We must let residents know so they can join us on that day as well, if they want to."

She voted against a proposal from her own side for a focus group to be set up including other groups in the town. The proposal was carried.

"Who's going to be on it? What's it going to talk about? We need something more solid than that," she said.

As a borough councillor she was already involved in action, she said, and asked where the town's other borough and county councillors were, particularly Cllr Phillip French who was present as part of the Conservative group on the town council.

He demanded she apologise for such a personal attack and said he did not feel the need to justify his actions, and he had intended to take part in getting up the petition, but had been advised not to by 'a higher power'.

Cllr Byrne's proposal to continue the petition was agreed, with Cllr Hawes not voting. He said this was because he would be on holiday on July 28 so not available to take part in the action.

Haverhill Online News

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