The buck stops with Bourne

THESE are difficult times for the Labour Party in Essex. Not only has it been reduced to just one councillor on the county council, but now one of its senior activists Richard Bourne has been booted out of the job as chairman of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

Graham Dines

THESE are difficult times for the Labour Party in Essex. Not only has it been reduced to just one

councillor on the county council, but now one of its senior activists Richard Bourne has been booted out of the job as chairman of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

Apart from hurt pride, Bourne - a Labour Colchester borough councillor - may count himself aggrieved because he was reappointed only two months' ago after four years in charge.


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But Monitor, the UK's foundation health trust regulator, blamed him for the Trust missing key NHS targets at Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital including the amount of time it took to be seen in A&E and the length of time it took to receive elective surgery after referral. It also pointed to problems in hitting cancer targets and condemned the trust's mortality rates as unacceptably high.

Although the Trust has worked with Monitor to develop a programme to overcome these difficulties, Bill Moyes, Monitor's executive chairman wrote: “Your immediate removal as chairman of the trust and the appointment of an interim chairman was both the most appropriate regulatory response and a fair exercise of Monitors statutory powers in the trust's current circumstances.

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“I consider it important to emphasise that this intervention relates to matters of strategic leadership capacity and capability.”

In other words, the watchdog has damned Bourne as incapable.

I'm in no position to judge whether that's right or wrong, but the move casts an interesting light on the old adage “the buck stops here.” Too often, people paid to take charge of an organisation or head government ministries refuse to take the fall for departmental cock-ups.

In days gone by, a Cabinet minister would not hesitate to take responsibility for wrong decisions, a classic example being Lord Carrington, Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's first government, who quit over intelligence failures ahead of Argentina's illegal occupation of the Falklands Islands invasion.

Although some in Colchester might argue about local accountability, if an organisation is failing, then the person appointed to the top job must take responsibility. If he or she try to ride out the storm, then it's only right that someone makes that decision for them - whether it's the Prime Minister, as in the case of Home Secretary Charles Clarke, Education Secretary Ed Balls in sacking Haringey's head of social care Sharon Shoesmith following the inquiry into the death of Baby P, or Monitor axing Richard Bourne.

COMMUNITIES Secretary John Denham yesterday called for a new focus on the needs of poor whites affected by mass immigration and said councils and Whitehall had been blind to the needs of white working class communities. Denham said areas with high immigration levels felt a sense of “insecurity and unfairness” because of the impact of new arrivals on jobs and public services.

Imagine the uproar from the equalities lobby which would have greeted such comments if they had been uttered a Tory!

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