Cllr Michael Lilley shares this latest news, in his own words. Ed
On 11th July 2019, the Isle of Wight Council Cabinet decided to negotiate a permanent strategic partnership with Hampshire County Council to manage its public health service.
Cllr Michael Lilley (Vice-Chair of Corporate Scrutiny) has called in this decision and the Monitoring Officer has approved the Call-In. A special Public Health scrutiny meeting will be held on Thursday 1st August 2019 at 5pm at County Hall.
IW Public Health’s rocky history
In 2013, the UK Government transferred public health from the NHS to local government and Public Health England. On the Isle of Wight this was Isle of Wight Council.
It represented a unique opportunity to change the focus from treating sickness to actively promoting health and well-being in an imaginative way. The transfer of public health responsibilities to the Isle of Wight Council involved making the statutory appointment of a Public Health Director which went through an appointments panel.
The new PH Director pushed forward an innovative way of early prevention work through the Local Area Coordinators (LAC) programme which was trialled by a number of local authorities across UK.
The new Conservative Administration in 2017 initially seemed to support the rolling out of this programme, but “something” happened which resulted in the Director leaving.
Local area coordinators scrapped
In 2018, IW Council asked Hampshire County Council to manage the service on an interim basis under the Hampshire model. One of the first acts by Hampshire was the closure of the LAC programme.
This decision by Cabinet was fiercely opposed by opposition councillors and Cllr Lilley tried to Call-In the decision, but was refused by the Monitoring Officer.
Public Health and IW leisure services anomaly
Cllr Lilley has been asking for information regarding Public Health for over two years.
He has continuously raised questions especially about how IW Council has been commissioning annually amounts of £500,000 to £250,000 from the Government funded ring-fenced Public Health grant since 2013 to its own Leisure Department.
This issue has been raised by the external auditor and documented as an “anomaly”. Cllr Lilley has repeatedly asked for explanation about the fairness of this internal funding transfer, especially as non-council sports centres such as West Wight Sports and Community Centre and Ryde’s Waterside Pool Trust do not benefit.
Suicide prevention strategy ‘not fit for purpose’
In 2018, Cllr Lilley led a task and finish group investigating Public Health’s statutory responsibility for Suicide Prevention and the final report was critical of initially the lack of a strategy and the resulting strategy. Recently, Cllr Lilley has stated this strategy is “not fit for purpose”.
Lilley: Island residents need transparency and honesty
Cllr Lilley states:
“I am glad I have the opportunity to ask in a designated meeting what has happened behind closed doors in regard to the Island’s public health service. It is steeped in secrecy and when I ask questions I am literally “fobbed” off with non-answers.
“Island residents need transparency and honesty about what is happening with this statutory and life-saving/health prevention service. Public Health is about preventing illness and promoting health and well-being and since I was elected in 2017, I have failed to get information that accurately shows it is doing this important job.”
Lilley: Islanders need to know the truth
He went on to say,
“Now the Cabinet has decided to off load the service under the management of Hampshire County Council without evidence of need, any report on the state of the service that supports this option, any reports on other options, no risk analysis or value for money exercise. Island residents have no information about this decision and its needs.
“Public Health England reportedly supports this transfer, but there is apparently no record of telephone conversations or informal meetings between Public Health England and IW Council. Hampshire County Council Cabinet had a report in April 2018 about the interim arrangement, but no report went to IW Council Cabinet.
“I asked 15 questions about this decision and did not get satisfactory answers. All I want is the truth and confirmation proper process has been followed. IW residents need to know the truth.”