Powys County Councillors agreed two very important decisions today. The first was that the Council should 'move towards' a merger with Powys Local Health Board. The anticipated date on which this merger is intended to be finalised in 2012 - at the earliest. The second decision was to appoint Jeremy Patterson as the Council's new Chief Executive on a permanent basis, at an annual salary beginning at over £124,000 - without any competition. He had fulfilled the role on an 'interim' basis since March when his predecessor, Mark Kerr, resigned.
The proposed merger is hugely significant. Its would be a very big deal indeed were the delivery of healthcare to be placed under democratic control - first time since the 1940s. Over the last few weeks, several people have asked me what I think of this. Its just not been possible to express a firm opinion. Bearing in mind how important a decision it is, there has been almost no public discussion. The phrase that comes to mind is 'buying a pig in a poke'. At present the LHB spends about £12 million more per annum than its budget, which is covered by the Assembly Government. I'd want some firm assurances about how this financial 'black hole' is going to be filled. I wouldn't want to be the councillor who closed all of our Community Hospitals. But I have no objection in principle to the merger, and in my opinion the Councillors had no option but to proceed further. I'm not sure that I share the certainty of the press release issued by the Council after the decision, which announces "Better services for citizens and better use of the Powys pound". This deal is not sealed yet.
The Councillors voted unanimously to appoint Jeremy Patterson as Chief Executive. I blogged on this last Friday. I'm told there were questions about how this story appeared on this blog, when it was supposed to be confidential. I'm told there could be another Powys CC 'leak' investigation. Well, they won't have to look far. I'm also told that one leading councillor had placed it on his web site before I blogged on it. Anyway, Jeremy Patterson seems a good choice to me. It's interesting though that an appointment at a salary similar to that of the Welsh First Minister can be made without any competition whatsoever. Whatever, this blog wishes Jeremy good fortune as he takes on such an important job at such a difficult time.