On 27 July I hosted the first in a series of ‘Ask Alex’ events which will be held across Cheltenham over the coming months. These events have two principal aims; first they mean I can hear directly from local residents about issues that affect them and to understand their priorities. Second, it is an opportunity for residents to ask me anything they like, and quiz me on what I stand for. That can make it pretty daunting at times(!) but I think it’s a key part of what underpins our democracy.
The first issue that was raised related to the decision to downgrade Cheltenham’s A&E department. I re-emphasised my consistent opposition to this move and my continuing concern. As I stated, despite reassurances I have personally received from senior clinicians, this marks in my view an overall downgrade in the quality of medical care available to the people of Cheltenham. I want to see a 24-hour service restored in Cheltenham, fully-staffed and fully-resourced. The hospital trust needs to demonstrate to people in Cheltenham that it is working towards that goal with concrete plans that the public can trust. In the meantime I will be keeping a close eye on the data coming out of A&E to check that promises of better patient outcomes are being kept.
Other issues raised included immigration, local planning policy and the European referendum. It was a lively and vigorous discussion.
I met one young resident who was involved in the Government’s Work Programme. The Work Programme pays providers from the voluntary, private and public sector to incentivise them into helping those on Jobseekers’ Allowance, or other benefits like disability benefits, into work. I was delighted to hear that he had found this to be a really positive initiative which was having an immediate and positive impact on him. It’s immensely rewarding to hear that this initiative is bearing fruit.
The next ‘Ask Alex’ event is in Pittville on 24 August. Do come along to let me know what’s on your mind, or just to ask me where I stand on an issue that matters to you. See the contact page for details. I hope to meet you then.