September 26th, 2016

Fears for the Alex topped the agenda on election doorsteps in Redditch

Updated: 8:02 pm, May 08, 2016

THE future of the Alex was top of the agenda on the doorstep during the local elections in Redditch.

The borough attracted interest from both national and regional press all sniffing for stories about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and fears of anti-semitism, however it was the plight of the Woodrow Drive hospital that dominated for local residents.

Concern over a possible downgrading of the hospital, the forging of closer links with Herefordshire way to the south, and journey times to Worcester raised their heads during campaigning, spurring all the parties contesting wards in Redditch to make pledges over health care.

And although the borough has no direct control of acute health services, the newly returned leader of the local authority, Councillor Bill Hartnett, said the controlling Labour group would continue to fight for the Alex and against any centralisation with Hereford.

“No doubt about it, the Alex was the top concern among voters in Redditch,” said Coun Hartnett.

“The town keeps growing, more and more houses are being built and the health trust (Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust) can’t cope as it is and yet they’re planning to move more services from Redditch to the Worcestershire Royal.

“It seems to me that they want our money but they’re not prepared to give us the services in return.”

Labour kept overall control of the council, retaining all seven of the seats they held, including Coun Yvonne Smith’s Winyates ward, targeted by Ukip, and Coun John Fisher’s Matchborough ward, targeted by the Conservatives.

“It’s a great result, a brilliant result,” said Coun Fisher. “You don’t win an election in the last four weeks of campaigning, the groundwork for this has been laid by us trying to run this council in the right way in a very difficult financial climate and against an extremely bad deal from central Government.

“And we are going to carry on trying to protect the services people care about.”

The Conservatives’ vote was dented by a surge in support for Ukip, who pushed them into third place in three wards.

Redditch’s Conservative MP Karen Lumley, whilst admitting her disappointment at the result, said things would be different after the EU referendum in June.

“I am disappointed, especially for the team who worked so hard and for the exceptional group of candidates we brought together, but that’s politics, you have to be prepared to face disappointments along the way, but we will see how things look after the June 23 vote.

“I congratulate Bill on his success, we work well together and I am sure we will continue to do so.”