On a lovely sunny day, Valentines day we visited Windsor House to join the residents for their weekly coffee session. Windsor House is an iconic block of independent/ sheltered flats for older people situated in the middle of Whitstable. Flats in Windsor House are very popular and are snapped up quickly when they become available. The residents are very well supported by their managers who will always go the extra mile for them to ensure their wellbeing and safety.
We were warmly welcomed by the Chair of the Residents Committee, Trevor Liberson and introduced to the residents. Many of the residents already know Bernadette, the Labour Councillor for Gorrell and Chris Cornell and I were introduced as the Labour candidates for Gorrell in the upcoming local elections.
The chair and residents shared some of their concerns with us which were mostly related to their environment. Parking in the grounds of Windsor House, uneven pathways which are treacherous for many residents as they have to use walking frames or wheelchairs. Other concerns raised were the state of the roof and the number of oven hoods which were beginning to fail in the flats. The residents were appreciative of the support they had received from Bernadette, in particular getting the yellow lines painted in the grounds. She is also working to get a 20 mph zone introduced in the area of Windsor House . Labour councillors have also been active in helping several residents in relation to benefits and housing issues; with two residents taking time to talk with Bernadette about their cases.
Some of the residents expressed concern that as you got older you were often unseen by society and politicians and stereotyped and patronised. I totally support this feeling as having turned 70 this year I am tired of being marginalised or written off. The concerns of older people are usually the concerns of the whole community. Having a well funded NHS ,good transport links, housing, local shops and libraries, a clean and safe environment, good schools. Creating a community which will be a good place to live for everybody regardless of age.
Labour Councillors will continue to support this valued community and to work to create a well-funded safe and vital community for everyone-not just for the few.
My first impression of the Gateway for Sheppey was its location. It was the former Woolworths, band in the middle of the high street. It’s accessibility was excellent. It’s make over was fresh, modern and spacious. The facilities were set out on two floors, ground and first. Each floor had sets of disabled and child toilets. Services such as the library and computers on the first floor. A comprehensive array of advice services on the ground floor with a sitting area and cafe.
When you walked into the building, there was a large reception desk with the words ‘Meet and Greek’ in bold letters. On the desk was a trained receptions to guide and put clients at ease and make sure that they were directed to the right area. Children could read books or draw whilst their parents accessed services. Every social need was catered for; Mental Health, Domestic Abuse and Health charities hosted pop up surgeries on a weekly basis; the council were on hand to advise on housing, rates, planning roads and homeless issues. Food bank vouchers were available on request. Upstairs KCC floating support services and adult education teams had offices, with ‘return to work’ training available in the afternoons.
Under years of Conservative government, we have no direct access to public services. Tory austerity has nearly broken our community. In Whitstable we have become a disenfranchised community, not knowing where to get help or challenge anything which is being imposed on is.
Kent County Council has a number of under utilised buildings in our town; a proactive council could approach them to improve access to what KCC services we have and start up a Gateway or Hub which will centralise new advice services. It would help us gain access to services we have paid for! This is our right!
A high street hub would make the council more accessible, so why is Canterbury one of the only districts in Kent not to have them. The Council’s own community profile acknowledges that whilst Canterbury is relatively affluent, areas of Whitstable (Gorell, Seasalter) and Herne Bay (Greenhill and Eddington, Heron) are amongst the 20% most deprived areas in the country. So why is this council removing services from those most in need. I want what Sheppey and Margate have got for Whitstable.
Estates staff at three Kent hospitals have this week gone on strike over this month over plans to transfer them to a wholly owned subsidiary to avoid paying tax. Unite, the country’s largest union, announced the action which affects the local Kent & Canterbury last month and our activists have been showing their solidarity by joining the pickets in Canterbury and Margate.
Unite balloted its more than 50 estates’ members employed by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and they voted by 85 per cent for strike action over plans to transfer them to a wholly owned subsidiary called 2together Support Solutions.
The Labour Party shares Unite’s concerns that the creation of wholly owned subsidiaries could lead to job losses and salami slicing of service provision. Unite regional officer Michael Cott said: “We are strongly against the formation of these entities which, we believe, could lead to a Pandora’s Box of Carillion-type meltdowns – with the adverse knock-on effects on patient services and jobs.
“They have a strong desire to remain employed by the trust and not to be employed by the 2together Support Solutions subsidiary which has been set up with the purpose to avoid tax. Our members in Kent fear that such a move will create a two-tier workforce with new staff on inferior conditions and this, in turn, will increase the problems of recruiting and retaining new staff.”
Rory Heap, Chair of Kent Unite Community and an activist in our Whitstable branch said of the protest, “The East Kent health trust has refused to negotiate on this issue. This is a real threat to a publicly owned NHS and its encouraging to see support on our picket lines this week.”
Recently, two trusts – University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – backed down on their plans for a wholly owned subsidiary, following pressure from health unions.