Redbridge Council leader denies A&E ‘surrender’ claim

Jas Athwal, leader of the Redbridge Labour Group

Jas Athwal, leader of the Redbridge Labour Group - Credit: Archant

The leader of Redbridge Council has refuted claims it was the “co-author” of a plan to close King George Hospital A&E after comments from a campaigner at a cabinet meeting.

A row has erupted between campaigners and the authority after papers from a meeting of the health and wellbeing board last July emerged showing the council agreeing a five-year strategic plan which includes downgrading the facility to a 24-hour urgent care centre.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Andy Walker, of the Save King George Hospital campaign, addressed members, saying: “I would like to know you can reassure me that this council has campaigned to the best of its ability.”

He added that a resident had “discovered that Redbridge council is the co-author of a plan to close Redbridge A&E”.

But leader Cllr Jas Athwal hit back at the claims, and said Mr Walker had “gone beyond what you should be saying”.

“It would be completely remiss and out of order if this council did not prepare for the eventuality of the service actually being closed, because the Secretary of State has made that decision – that decision has never changed,” he said.

He said conditions had been put in place on the closure because of pressure by the council.

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“Some of these conditions were that we at least expect some minimum levels of care,” he said.

“To have both our trusts in special measures, it’s up to this council and the scrutiny committee set up by this council to actually monitor and challenge and scrutinise what’s going on.

“These conditions have to be fully met and for you to imply in your question or statement that somehow this council is involved in the closure of King George Hospital A&E is completely refuted by this council. I refute it.”

But Mr Walker said he was “baffled” by the council’s position.

“It’s complete surrender,” he said.

“There’s not much point turning up to public meeting and photo shoots if you then go along with what the government tells you.”