From the Daily Telegraph:
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.
They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”
The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.
It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.
He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.
“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility.
She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.
The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.
In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.
The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.
Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.
They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.
An expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.
She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.
An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.
Occasionally we find people who think that because Conservative and Lib Dem MPs are in a coalition in parliament, that must extend to council chambers as well.
That isn’t true.
The Conservatives have a huge majority in Rochford, and have certainly not offered the Lib Dem councillors here any kind of coalition – nor would we expect them to do so.
Relations between the two parties are generally very professional – we often disagree on issues but there are normally no bad feelings.
Meanwhile in Brentwood feelings between the two parties seem to be very bad and downright unpleasant- as Lib Dem Councillor Karen Chilvers explains here .
My “crime” was doing my job of scrutinising the council and my punishment was to be hounded out of the Scrutiny Chair position by a pack of baying Tory wolves all trumping up charges as to how I am incompetent because they didn’t like being brought to account as a failing administration by the vote I allowed…
…..There is no other organisation that would allow this to happen – can you imagine in the workplace 20 employees being allowed, in fact encouraged, to subject another employee to a barrage of abuse like this in the office….let alone on the internet for the whole world to watch? ….. If you can stomach it, please do watch along
From the BBC website:
A group is to be created to monitor the ethics and integrity of police officers in Essex.
The Ethics and Integrity Committee is being set up by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Nick Alston.
Mr Alston said recent “high profile” cases elsewhere had called police conduct “into question”.
The Essex branch of the Police Federation said it was unaware of the new committee and questioned what it would do that existing systems did not.
The Commissioner himself blogs about it here:
We have all seen the prominent national press coverage of several high profile cases where, rightly or wrongly, police conduct has been called into question and put under the microscope.
I have been Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex for almost a year, and throughout this period have seen examples of outstanding conduct by police officers and staff across the county. But I also recognise that it only takes very few cases where police conduct is poor to seriously damage public confidence in policing. That’s why I place great importance on this matter….
Youth Service Consultation
Why are we consulting with you? Essex County Council faces an unprecedented financial challenge. Reduced funding from central government, together with the impact of inflation and increasing demand for services mean the council needs to save around £215m by 2016/17. This on top of the £365m already saved over the previous three years. Achieving this will require us to take tough decision on what services ECC provides, how we provide them and what services we must stop providing. The Essex Youth Service currently operates within a £5m budget. There is a requirement to make efficiency savings within the service over the next two financial years with a proposed savings target of £3m by 2015/16. We would like you to tell us your views to improve the quality of our decision making, by listening to your expertise and exploring your alternative ideas.
There’s a big political row brewing over past problems at Basildon Hospital.
Peter Black (no relation) blogs about it here.
According to the Sunday Times Mr. Burnham, who is now the shadow health secretary, is preparing libel proceedings against one of his successors in that post, Jeremy Hunt over remarks made on Twitter. They say that Labour party lawyers yesterday wrote to Hunt demanding that he remove the comments from the social networking site or face further action…. Jeremy Hunt is refusing to back down, which leads me to wonder whether Burnham will go ahead with his threat to sue. After all juries are notoriously (and quite rightly) unsympathetic to politicians and their reputation.
More damagingly though such a court case could lead to a very public and forensic dissection of Andy Burnham’s time in charge of the NHS. Would any minister, irrespective of party voluntarily agree to such a scenario?
From the Essex Chronicle website:
THE POLITICIAN responsible for plunging the streets of Chelmsford and Braintree into darkness each night has admitted binning the comments of any resident opposed to the scheme.
Cllr Rodney Bass, the Essex County Council cabinet member who used his powers to approve part-night lighting across both towns, defended his controversial move at a scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, and insisted the matter was not up for review.
Nearly 5,000 have signed an online petition against the switch-off and the Essex Chronicle website and Facebook page has been flooded with posts, but Cllr Bass insists people need to “grow up” and learn to live with the change.
Answering members’ concerns at the meeting, he said: “I do respond to reasonable arguments but I’m not responsive to people who have written to me – some in quite unsavoury terms – and say we are opposed to the principle of switching any lights off. I mean they just get binned.
Essex Lib Dem County Councillor Stephen Robinson has launched the following omline petition – you can sign it here. It says:
One of our regulars readers, Sean, has pointed out the following consultation being carried out by the County Council:
Review of the County Council’s Bus Strategy
Essex County Council would like to hear your views as it starts a review of its Bus Strategy and how it provides financial support to local bus services. In this challenging economic climate it is very important that we focus our expenditure where it is really needed to ensure value for money for residents. This review will help to ensure that the bus services provided by the council meet, as far as possible, the essential needs of Essex. The outcome of the review will help to decide what types of service will be supported in future.
This first consultation stage is designed to help us understand which types of supported bus service you value most. Individual services are not being considered for change at this stage. You will have the opportunity at a later stage to give your views on any proposed changes to individual services that may result from the review.
To respond to the survey
To respond online, please click here to answer the survey. The survey is open until 9 December 2013.
Sean has also very helpfully sent us the following:
In the Rochford District, Essex County Council provide support to the following services:
Monday to Saturday
7 ECC supports three services per hour between approx 0900 and 1500 to extend from Ashingdon Schools to Hockley Spa
(see next description of cut)
8 ECC supports one service per hour between approx 0900 and 1500 to extend from Golden Cross to Hockley Spa
If support for extending weekday bus services beyond Ashingdon Schools / Golden Cross were cut there would only be an hourly service on the number 8 via Hawkwell and a half-hourly service between Hockley and Southend compared to every ten minutes at present.
10 ECC supports the whole timetable for this Wednesday only bus service between Canewdon and Rayleigh
If this support for this service were cut there would be no service.
14 ECC suports the whole timetable between Foulness/Shoebury and Southend via Barling
If this support for this service were cut there would be no service.
60 ECC suports the whole timetable between Canewdon and Southend via Ballards Gore and Rochford
If this support for this service were cut there would be no service.
1 ECC supports from 2047 between the Thames Drive (almost Hadleigh) to Rayleigh section .
If this were cut the last Number 1 to reach Rayleigh would depart Southend at 1920 (Hadleigh 1947, Thundersley 1955). The last bus to reach Southend would depart from Rayleigh at 2006 (Thundersley 2017, Hadleigh 2025)
7 ECC supports the 1829 (1820) journey from Rayleigh to Southend
If this was cut there would be a one and a half hour gap between the last number 8 and the next number 7, or a two hour gap between services if the number 8 service were also cut.
8 ECC supports the whole number 8 timetable between Southend and Rayleigh.
If this was cut there would be no bus service in Hawkwell and only an hourly service between Southend – Rochford – Hockley – Rayleigh on Sundays.
20 Sunday – Southend to Hullbridge 1925 & 2050 journeys. Hullbridge to Southend 2014 journey. Hullbridge to Rayleigh 2135 journey.
If support for these services was cut the last bus from Hullbridge on Sundays would be the 1852 and the last bus to Hullbridge would depart Southend at 1822 (Rayleigh 1901)
… The number of people in our district claiming Job Seekers Allowance has fallen a little
in the past 12 months:
In August 2012 there were 1139 claimants (2.2 % of working age population.
This August there were only 952 claimants (1.9% 0f working population).
By comparison, the figure for the East of England is 2.6% (down from 3.0%) and the figure for Great Britain is 3.3 % (down from 3.8%)
On Jan 1st next year the County Council is planning to introduce ‘part-night’ lighting. Streetlights will be turned off from midnight until 5 am . You can find more information here on the County Council website, But for simplicity we are copying a lot of information from the County Council website onto onlinefocus (these are the County’s words, not ours). As you will see below, Lib Dem County Councillors think the County Council should be looking at other lighting technology instead of just turning the lights off.
Why move to part-night lighting
To save money and reduce our carbon emissions and light pollution, we will be turning off some of our street lights at night – this is called part-night street lighting. This involves some lights being switched off for five hours over night, between 12am and 5am.
Essex County Council has been running a pilot part-night lighting scheme in Maldon and Uttlesford since early 2007. Street lights are switched off between 12 midnight and 5am, with some exceptions such as town centres, key road junctions and accident cluster sites. Since the pilot scheme began there has been no increase in recorded crime or road collisions in the two districts. The pilot has also delivered energy savings of 20% (approx £70,000 per annum).
Why are our lights being ‘turned off’?
Essex County Council is changing from all night lighting to part night lighting on certain street lights. This is in accordance with ECC exception criteria to help reduce energy consumption and light pollution. It is proposed to turn the lights off between midnight and 5am.
Can Essex County Council legally turn off lights?
Yes, Essex County Council is empowered as a lighting authority to light roads which in their opinion should be lit, but the Council is not duty bound to provide lighting in any road.
Why can’t you only switch off every other light? (1 in 2)
This has been considered but will not enable the Council to meet its objectives of reducing energy consumption and light pollution.
Why not replace the lighting with new technology such as solar powered lighting?
New technology like LED’s and solar power is currently not suitable for highway lighting in Essex as it is uneconomical. However Essex County Council will continue to monitor this.
Can I pay to keep the street light outside my house on?
No, part night lighting is to help reduce ECC’s energy consumption and light pollution.
Will I get a reduction in my council tax?
No however this initiative may help to reduce any future council tax increases.
When will the part night lighting start in my area?
This will be carried out in a rolling program following consultation with the Borough, District, Town and Parish Councils. Details will be published accordingly.
Why my street?
All areas of the county are being affected. The general presumption will be that all ECC owned street lights will be altered to part night operation unless covered by the exception criteria.
What are the exception criteria?
Major lit inter urban dual carriageway traffic routes.
Conflict sites e.g. roundabouts, lit by columns greater than 6m high.
Sites where street lights installed for accident remedial measures.
Town Centre type development where there is one or more of the following features:Main approaches to areas defined in the section above, where there is a mix of development between residential and commercial/industrial i.e. not exclusively residential.
High proportion of high security premises e.g. banks, jewellers etc.
High crime risk
High concentration of people at night such as Transport interchanges, nightclubs etc.
Sites where the police can demonstrate that there will be an increase in crime if the lights are switched off.
Remote footpaths and alleys linking residential streets.
Where there is a statutory requirement.
Where the configuration of street lighting columns is considered excessive, consideration is to be given to removing 1 in 2 lights with the remaining lights left on full night operation
What about resident safety?
ECC part night lighting pilot in Maldon & Uttlesford Districts has demonstrated that changing to part night lighting has had no adverse effect on resident safety.
What happens if there is an increase in crime/accident levels where part night lighting is in operation?
Essex Police can ask for lights to be turned back on if they demonstrate that there has been a significant increase in crime due to the introduction of part night lighting. Individual/public requests will not be considered. Although, Crime is not expected to increase due to the scheme. Crime statistics recorded during the trial showed no significant change due to the installation of part-night lighting in the two districts. The number of offences occurring between 11.30pm and 5.30am actually dropped by 14% in Maldon and by 12.6% in Uttlesford. Since the pilot scheme began there has also been no demonstrable increase in road collisions. If you do have concerns about this please contact the Police.
What about people who are partially sighted, elderly, start work early or finish late?
The introduction of part night lighting is not based on personal circumstances. Part night lighting will be implemented in accordance with the exception criteria.
If a member of the public has a fall in a part night lit street during the hours when the lights are off will their claim be treated differently?
No, all claims are treated the same.
What happens if the cost of my car/home insurance increases due to part night lighting?
This is a matter between the person and their insurance company.
How can requests be made to turn lights back on?
If you feel your road is covered by the exception criteria please email or write to the Essex Highways street lighting team at:
Street Lighting Team, Essex Highways, PO Box 11 County Hall, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1LX
Have the emergency services been consulted?
The emergency services will be consulted about the plans to install part night lighting and their comments will be carefully considered.
In my area the street lights go out at midnight, how come other lighting is still on at this time?
Not all lighting is owned and maintained by ECC, only ECC lighting is considered under the exception criteria.
Who do I contact for further information regarding part night lighting?
Please email Essex Highways street lighting team at email@example.com or write to Street Lighting Team, Essex Highways, PO Box 11, County Hall, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1LX.
Stephen Robinson , one of the Lib Dem County Councillors in Chelmsford has now ‘called-in’ the decision :
Essex County Council will review its plans to switch off street lights, following a “call in” request from Lib Dem Highways spokesman Cllr Stephen Robinson. The review will be at the Place Services Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 26th September, 10am at County Hall, Chelmsford. (When ready, the Agenda will be here.)
Most street lights in Chelmsford and Braintree are now switched off between Midnight and 5am. The Liberal Democrat Opposition is concerned about public safety and want consideration given to other lighting technology.
Stephen Robinson said, “We think that Essex CC should consider new-style, low-energy LED lights, lights controlled by movement sensors and other technology.
“We know that the council has to save money and should also reduce its carbon footprint. But LED lights would reassure the public and be a more effective kind of lighting.”
A petition backing calls for a review has been launched at http://signme.org.uk/860
The Cabinet Member for Highways, Cllr Rodney Bass, made the formal decision on 27 August and Lib Dem Stephen Robinson then used the Council’s official “Call In” procedure. This required Cllr Bass to meet with Cllr Robinson and Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee Cllr Simon Walsh.
Following their meeting on Tuesday 3rd September, Cllr Walsh agreed to Cllr Robinson’s request for street lighting to be the main item at a Committee meeting on 26th September. Cllr Bass agreed to attend to answer questions from councillors.
Cllr Robinson added, “Unfortunately, the Conservatives do not allow the public to speak at Essex County Council meetings. So, while anyone can attend the meeting, only Councillors can ask questions. I will request that a Task & Finish Group is formed, which then CAN take evidence from the public and technical experts.”
Essex County Council plans to switch off lights across the rest of the Essex over the next few months.
We are Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners in Rochford District.
We want to improve local decision-making and we see onlineFOCUS as a good way of keep residents informed and involved.
Please click here to email us .
We welcome your comments, they are very important to us. However please note:
* We may not necessarily agree with the comments made by our readers
* We ask everyone to treat people with respect when making a comment. No personal abuse please.
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If you want information on a particular planning application, you can find it on the District Council website here.
If you want to know what new planning applications have been submitted this week, click here.
If you want to report a problem, you can email Lib Dems councillors by clicking here.
There's also an independent website called FixMyStreet. It's very good for reporting minor street problems like holes in the road, grafitti or failed streetlights. You can find FixMyStreet here.
If you read onlineFOCUS for a while you can see the kind of things we are trying to achieve locally. Maybe you would like to help us?
If you fancy helping us deliver leaflets, or actively campaigning for us at election time, or simply just helping behind the scenes with paperwork, please contact the onlineFOCUS team here.