Councillors divided over grants to help Telford A&E accommodation
A row has broken out after parish councils around Telford & Wrekin were asked to pay for a campaign to bring more doctors to the Princess Royal Hospital.
Councils across the borough have been paying thousands of pounds to refurbish three houses within the grounds of the hospital, which will be provided as free accommodation in a bid to attract more junior and middle grade doctors.
It comes just weeks before the hospital’s A&E faces overnight closure from next month due to a lack of staff.
The scheme, devised by Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies, aims to bring enough staff to the county to prevent a closure.
Councillors in support said it was what the people in their wards wanted.
But others have raised concerns about double taxation, and the risk of other public bodies coming to parish councils for money in the future.
Newport Town Council pledged £2,500 to help fund the project, with most of the council backing the decision at a meeting earlier this week.
The town's mayor, Councillor Peter Scott, said he felt it was the right thing for the council to do.
"The Princess Royal is our hospital," he said. "We're here to represent the feelings of the people. We should be doing the right things based on what people want us to do," he said.
"Anything that we can do as a community we should do. We were confident when we voted to grant that money that we were speaking on behalf of the people of Newport."
But Councillor Tim Nelson, who is on Newport Town Council, said it was wrong to ask people to pay for something they had already paid for.
"If we went around and asked individual residents do you mind paying in support of a very good cause, getting more doctors to come to PRH, people would probably say yes," he said.
"I get that – I understand. But they're being asked the wrong question, because they've already paid the tax. They're being asked to pay the same money twice, and where does it end?
"I'm passionately in support of the PRH, and of the concept of a health service free at point of need. The debate is how we pay for it. That debate is bigger than the parish council."
Councillors at St Georges and Priorslee Parish Council were also concerned about the request for funding for the project.
Cllr Veronica Fletcher said she was worried this donation would be the “thin end of the wedge”, opening the door for other public-sector bodies to expect money from parish councils.
She said: “Where will it go from there? Who will ask next?”
Councillor David Wright, former Telford MP, said the project was attempting to "break the logjam" and make recruitment at the hospital easier.
SaTH are having recruitment difficulties, and there are issues about whether they have been advertising effectively, granted,” he said.
“But if we can come together it does get us an opportunity to say we have done something.”
Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTD), which runs the hospital, said that the temporary closure of the A&E can be avoided in the ‘short-term’ if it gets the staff it needs.
Other town and parish councils are also contributing, including a £5,000 donation from Hadley & Leegomery Parish Council. Great Dawley Town Council has also given £5,000, Wellington Town Council £4,800, Wrockwardine Wood and Trench parish councils £2,500 each.