Following our recent visit by Councillor Rachael Lancaster, in which she explained the purpose and operation of Scrutiny Boards (see earlier article), members of the Management Committee have been considering whether involvement in Scrutiny Boards would be a good way to further COV’s aims.
We have learned that there are four ways in which members of the public, or organisations such as ours, can participate. We could:
As we don’t have a site to visit, (3) does not apply to us.
Committee members are not great users of Facebook or Twitter, so we probably won’t do (4), although individual members might want to make comments online and to mention that they are COV members.
In order to decide whether (1) and (2) would be useful, several committee members have attended Scrutiny Board meetings (which are open to the public), and others intend to do so in the near future. We will then get together to discuss our next course of action.
If you want to find out more about this activity, with a view to possibly taking part, do get in touch.Scrutiny Boards are described in some detail, along with timetables and agendas, on the City Council's website here.
Ward forums are described by the Council as “a way of taking a closer look at the places where we live and making life in our neighbourhoods better together”.
They are led by a Councillor, are open to the public, and are often attended by representatives from the police and community and voluntary groups, including COV members. However, only three ward forums have taken place in Coventry’s eighteen wards since February, leading to the suspicion that they are being run down, or even discontinued altogether.
We wrote to Councillor Linda Bigham, the Cabinet Member for Community Development, to ask if our suspicions were correct. We are grateful for her detailed reply, which is summarized as follows:
If you would like to express your opinion on this item, please get in touch.
In an earlier we article reported on the campaign to save a hedgerow and trees in Canley Crematorium from being destroyed. The campaign was not successful, and according to Ann Wilson, Chairman of the Coventry Tree Warden Network, the objections by her group and other members of the public were not dealt with properly.
Consequently she complained to the Local Government Ombudsman that she and her group had not received fair treatment.
The complaint was partially upheld, in particular because the Ombudsman considered that not enough notice was given to residents about the Council’s intentions to remove the trees and hedgerow. However, the Ombudsman also said that this would not have affected the eventual outcome, and therefore it did not cause significant injustice to the complainants.The Ombudsman’s full report will be made available online, and details of how to access it will be published on this website.
This event was organized by Coventry’s two universities, and was advertised as an opportunity to join a panel of experts for a discussion on medical care, access to health information, transport and mobility. It took place at the Belgrade Theatre, and refreshments and cakes were provided. Perhaps this accounts for the large number of people that turned up, many of them COV members!
However, many did not let the organizers know in advance that they would be going, and there was some overcrowding as a result.
There were several presentations, but some COV members have said that they could not see or hear them because there were too many people there. Participants then chose their table according to which topics they wanted to discuss.
Opinion was divided about the value of the exercise. While some welcomed the chance to exchange views and ideas with researchers, some thought that it was “another talking shop”. They complained that although such sessions were useful to identify problems, what was needed was action to solve them.Did you go? If so, did you find it useful? Do send us an email to let us know what you thought.
Eighty members attended COV’s first AGM, held at the Methodist Central Hall on 20th September, and another twenty-three submitted postal votes.
Our guest speakers were Moira Pendlebury (CEO of Age UK Coventry), Kam Kaur (Project Manager of the Age-Friendly Coventry project), and Jim Cunningham (MP for Coventry South). Reports were presented by the Chair and Secretary, and a debate on priorities for the coming year was held.
Moira spoke about her involvement with Age UK Coventry, beginning thirty years ago as a volunteer with Age Concern, which was Age UK’s predecessor organisation. In this role she experienced at first hand many of the difficulties faced by older people because of their lack of a voice in public affairs. In 2011 (by which time Moira had been an employee for many years) Age UK Coventry took over from Age Concern, and the new organization began to place more importance on campaigning. Moira was instrumental in getting COV up and running, and remains enthusiastic about how COV and Age UK Coventry can work together to ensure that the views and opinions of older people in Coventry are heard “loud and clear”. She stressed however that this requires the active involvement of its members.
Kam provided some background information on the Age-Friendly Coventry project, and gave some examples of the actions/activities currently underway. We report on these in a separate article in this website.
* Changes to State Pension rules that mean that some women will now qualify considerably later than they had expected.
* The cancellation of tax credits, leaving some families with no income for six or seven weeks.
* Domestic abuse, and the lack of protection against intimidation.
* Shortcomings in local transport.
COV’s chair (Anne Lakin) and Secretary (Abtar Sanga) reported on COV’s recent activities and achievements, and some of the things we hope to accomplish over the next twelve months. In the past year COV has (this is by no means a full list):
COV plans to continue campaigning on most of these issues (and others), but needs the active support of its members to do so.
There was time for a short discussion during the meeting about COV’s priorities for the coming year. One of the issues that was identified as causing particular problems to older people was the increasing use of computers to replace services previously provided by more traditional means. This might reduce costs for organisations such as the City Council and other service providers, but many older people do not have the computer skills to be able to use them, or even have access to a computer.
Other areas of concern included the reduction in the budget for care services for older people, which was thought to be in danger of being unable to cope with the increasing demand, and transport problems, especially with the Ring and Ride Service, which was described as “a joke”.
COV’s new Constitution was approved unanimously, and all the candidates for the Management Committee were accepted en bloc. (There were twelve candidates for fourteen places, leaving two unfilled vacancies).
Councillor Lancaster was our guest last November at a meeting that was open to all COV members, when she was the Cabinet Member for Public Services. She now has a new role on the Council as Chair of the Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee, and it was to explain this role that she came to a meeting of the COV Steering Committee.
While most decisions are made by the Cabinet, Coventry Council has six Scrutiny Boards, whose job it is to examine these decisions, and the progress made on their implementation. In addition, they keep a watch on the activities of other public bodies, such as those concerned with health, community safety and the emergency services.
As its name suggests, the Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee (sometimes known as SCRUCO) oversees the work of the other Scrutiny Boards, and has a number of other responsibilities. If you want to learn more about these, there is a more detailed description on the Council’s website here.
Councillor Lancaster is keen to promote local democracy, and pointed out that involvement in scrutiny is one way in which Citizens can be involved in decisions that affect them. Agendas, minutes and other papers related to scrutiny meetings are published on the Council website, and members of the public can attend meetings, suggest topics for scrutiny, and be co-opted onto scrutiny boards.
The topic of Canley Crematorium was also discussed at COV’s meeting with Councillor Lancaster. In an earlier article on this website, we reported on the campaign to save a hedgerow and trees from being destroyed. The Councillor said that their removal would create more burial space at Canley, and would defer the need for expansion at the Lentons Lane Cemetery, at a cost of £5 million.
Ann Wilson, (Chairman of the Coventry Tree Warden Network) spoke recently to members of the COV Steering Committee. A long-running campaign to save a hedgerow and trees in Canley Crematorium from destruction is coming to a head as Coventry Council intend to remove them this autumn.
“We are still trying to pursue this matter, but sadly our petition from 1700 people (including members of the clergy, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust) was dismissed with very little consideration” said Ann.
"We have tried very hard to reason with Rachel Lancaster (until recently the Cabinet Member for Public Services) and to convince her that the whole ambiance of the peaceful cemetery/crematorium is going to be lost, but she is unsympathetic. We still believe that many Coventry citizens do not know of the plans to rip out the hedgerow. If it is removed all that will be visible is ugly laurel and the road.
We are also concerned about the many memorials around the trees and do not think they should be disturbed. All the wildlife will also be lost.
One reason given for removal was that the trees in the hedgerow only had ten years’ useful life, but we had an expert opinion, before embarking on our challenge, which refutes this. The big cypress trees were obviously planted for their longevity (300 years!) It was also claimed that space had run out, but we are now told that there is space, but a decision was made in 2013 that there would be no more burials. This makes no sense.
In the past the Council had respected public opinion and promised that they would never remove this hedgerow".If you have a view on this matter, or on any other items in this website, you are welcome to have your say on the website Forum.
COV members Bridget Harper and Phil Lovett joined other members of the Age-Friendly Coventry (AFC) governance board recently, in a meeting with the Commons Health Select Committee. This committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department of Health.
On this occasion the committee wanted to hear about the Age-Friendly Coventry initiative, and the COV representatives were able to explain the role that COV plays in this important project.
The AFC governance board were particularly keen to stress the health benefits that could be achieved by making a city more Age-Friendly, and the resulting cost benefits to the Health Service. Combatting isolation and loneliness, for example, which are key aims of AFC, can dramatically improve an older person’s physical and mental health.Because earlier meetings overran, the session was shorter than had been expected. However, in the time available it was still possible to convey the enthusiasm of the participants in the project, the scope and nature of the planned initiatives, and the progress being made in their implementation.
The plaques and large brickwork compass at Lidice place, which commemorate the destruction of the Czechoslovakian village of Lidice during the Second World War, were removed as part of the re-modelling of parts of the City centre last Summer. COV members expressed their surprise and dismay at the lack of consultation before this took place, and their concern that they might not be replaced.
You can read more about the sequence of events, and COV’s representations to the Council on this matter here.
The plaques have now been restored in a prominent position in Lidice Place, and a smaller version of the compass has been created. The Council have promised a re-dedication ceremony, which will take place after the local government elections.
We're still pressing the Council for a date for the re-dedication ceremony. We're not having much success at the moment, but we don't intend to give up. Watch this space!
The promised re-dedication ceremony is now scheduled to take place on Friday 27th January 2017, at 12 noon.
PLEASE NOTE: This is Holocaust Memorial Day, which will also be commemorated in Broadgate, from 1pm to 1.45 pm. Full details are on the Council's website.
On 10th and 11th March, Coventry University's Health Design and Technology Institute (HDTI) hosted a prestigious gathering of twenty or so academic researchers and health professionals from across Europe. The partners in the group have been working together for over four years encouraging better co-ordination of European research projects. They are currently focusing on the application of technology to improve the health and well-being of older people.
The overarching purpose of this Action Meeting was to work on the final details of a European funding proposal with a submission deadline of 25 April 2016. Within the bid it was necessary to identify the challenges/barriers to healthy and active ageing with particular reference to technologies. More importantly the European partners were seeking to do things differently and develop more effective and innovative research methods and products and services.
What then was Coventry’s contribution to the meeting? The opening session on 10 March started with an excellent presentation by Professor Jane Moore, Director of Public Health in Coventry. This was followed by the keynote presentation on the Age Friendly Cities project given by Kam Kaur followed by some thoughts from Bridget Harper, a real ‘older voice’ from the COV Steering Group.
By the end of the two days the crucial element of researchers and citizens working together formed the focus of the bid. Using a network of people coming together through ‘living labs’ and Age Friendly Cities would enable experiences to be shared and trusting relationships to grow. Hopefully this European funding bid will be successful and the Coventry ‘Living Lab’ will be an exciting agent of change for Active and Healthy Ageing that ripples across Europe.
The way businesses behave towards older people can have a significant effect on our quality of life. As one of COV’s contributions to the Age Friendly Coventry programme, some of its members are planning a business evaluation and award scheme. Full details are still to be worked out, because the project is still at an early stage. But to a large extent it will depend on the people we can involve - both in terms of numbers, and the ideas they contribute.
At its most ambitious, a wide range of businesses could be awarded “stars”, as in existing schemes for hotels, restaurants, etc., but with an emphasis on the needs of older people. This would involve a lot of time and effort, and is unlikely to be possible in the short term. It is probably more realistic to start with an “Age-Friendly Business of the Month” award, and to expand the scope as we learn from experience.
It is also probably a good idea to start with particular types of businesses – such as retailers, or to focus even more closely - on pharmacists for instance. But your ideas on this, as with all aspects of the scheme, are very welcome.
If you would like to take part, then this is your opportunity to contribute to making Coventry a more age-friendly place to live.
The sorts of things that will need to be done include:
If you would like to join us, or would just to let us know what you think about our ideas, do get in touch via the Contact Us page.
There has been very little response to this appeal for volunteers, so for the time being at least, this project cannot go ahead.
COV members supported a Candlelight Vigil on Friday February 5th at Queen’s Steps Coventry Cathedral, to remember those older people in Coventry who have died needlessly due to the cold in the past decade. Last year alone this figure was 141 older people.
The vigil was the climax of Cold Homes week (1-5 February) in which the Government was asked to reform its energy efficiency schemes to enable all older people to live in a warm home. At present, England is seen as “the cold man of Europe” due to its high level of fuel poverty and poorly insulated homes.
We experience large numbers of excess winter deaths, even when compared with Northern European countries, despite their more extreme winters. Most of these deaths are caused by heart attacks, strokes or breathing problems brought on by the cold weather. Each winter one older person dies every seven minutes from the cold weather. Many more older people become seriously ill due to living in a cold home.
The Photograph shows:Debbie Sharples, Services Manager, Age UK Coventry
The Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign (WASPI) is an action group campaigning against what they consider to be unfair changes to the state pension.
The age at which state pensions are paid to women is being increased from 60 to 66. This will happen gradually, but depending upon their date of birth, some women will have to wait longer than others before they receive their first payment. WASPI are particularly concerned about those who have had their pension delayed twice, and say that some women were told at just 57½ that their pension age would rise from 60 to 66.
You can read an article by Paul Lewis (of Radio 4’s “Moneybox” programme) here.
You can see WASPI’s Facebook pages hereand you can sign their petition here.