Councillors in Stroud last week voted to give £1,000 to an upcoming NHS community celebration of seventy years of the health service.

But not all on Stroud Town Council supported the grant - three councillors feared they risked funding a political cause with public money, as it's being organised by campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts.

The councillors wrote to the SNJ explaining why (read here

Now, Stroud Against the Cuts have hit back - here's what they had to say:

Dear SNJ,

On July 5th 2018, it will be 70 years to the day since the National Health Service was founded.

We believe this is a significant moment, and hope that here in Stroud we can hold a community celebration worthy of the occasion.

We are encouraging Stroud residents to celebrate and reflect on the principles of the NHS and their value.

To achieve this we are organising a variety of events and activities, hoping to involve community groups, schools, churches, businesses and GP practices as well as NHS workers.

On Saturday 7th July we will hold a daytime event in Lansdown Hall and Bank Gardens – with a picnic, information from NHS organisations and workers, singing, music and dancing.

We are sad to see Cllrs John Bloxsom, Steve Dechan and Haydn Sutton oppose the use of a Town Council Community Support Fund Grant to support the event, and write to repeat that they have nothing to worry about.

The £1,000 that Stroud Town Council have generously agreed to – in principle - put towards a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS will be spent on just that, a celebration.

We are grateful to the Town Council for approving our application in principle, and that their community grant scheme exists to enable events like this to take place, given the difficulties a small and volunteer group like ours might otherwise face in raising the considerable funds required to hire the Lansdown Hall and Gallery, to pay for Public Liability Insurance to cover our events in Bank Gardens, and meet the expenses of our special guests.

The Town Council grant was provisionally approved subject to further consultation with the Town Clerk, after a debate that concluded with an overwhelming majority vote in favour by councillors.

We were delighted not only this vote but by the interest most councillors showed in supporting the NHS celebrations more generally.

We are aware of the constraints around public funds, and as a group we will be meeting regularly with the Town Council to ensure no money is spent inappropriately, starting this Thursday – as agreed at the meeting.

As we said at the time, Stroud Against the Cuts is not affiliated to any political party, and does not endorse parties or candidates in elections. We would be happy to meet with the concerned Councillors themselves – we want everyone in the community to be able to contribute to the celebrations and welcome constructive suggestions.

Bizarrely, the councillors imply that if Stroud Town Council did not fund this event, the money would instead go to the NHS.

We find the numbers they present about what could be funded instead a bit odd, and - as the Councillors surely know - the Town Council plays no role in funding the NHS (funding for our local services instead coming either via Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, or NHS England – and from general taxation rather than council tax).

We will have educational information about how the NHS is funded at the event which will be available for anyone who wishes to learn more.

The councillors say “Let’s all join in and celebrate the proposed 70th birthday of our precious NHS which we all use and value”.

We wholeheartedly agree but find this comment appearing in a letter complaining about the grant a bit strange – this is exactly what we’re inviting people to do: to join us for a celebration of the principles of the NHS with music, song, dancing and cake.

Amongst the public, support for the NHS and the founding principles which we intend to celebrate around the anniversary on 5th July clearly crosses party political boundaries.

Polling organised by the Kings Fund last September found that around 90% of people support the founding principles of the NHS, indicating that these principles are just as relevant today as when the NHS was established – and far more popular than any individual political party. We look forward to a wonderful celebration in Bank Gardens and the Lansdown Hall on 7th July.

James Beecher, Stroud Against the Cuts

Read our original write-up on the grant here: