The condemnation follows reports in Lib Dem campaign literature raising the possibility of Southport being left with just a “hospital for the elderly” while a new “Super Hospital” is built in the West Lancs town.
Several Liberal Dem leaflets claim that it’s all part of a Labour plan to downgrade Southport Hospital but local Labour politicians say that is simply untrue and it is spreading undue concern amongst residents.
Southport Labour Chair and Norwood Councillor Mhairi Doyle, says she believes the reports are “shameless” in how they try to mislead local people:
“The hospital has no plans at all to relocate services to Skelmersdale or build there and if it did we would fight it all the way. The Lib Dems know this but are deliberately spreading misinformation and concern.”
“They have spun the comments of a single Lancashire Labour councillor who said he’d like to see any new built hospital constructed in his patch – well, I can say as a local councillor myself, who wouldn’t?”
“That does not mean it is going to happen or that it is a Labour plan. I’d love to see a new hospital being built in Norwood but saying so doesn’t suddenly transform my wish into a proposal or mean that it could happen. It’s crazy to say it does.”
“These sort of blatant shameless scare stories do little but show how just divisive the Lib Dems are, and just how far they are prepared to go to mislead local residents.”
Southport’s Lib Dem councillors have also been making similar claims of a “Labour plan” online. Their opponents point out that the whole of Tory-run Lancashire County Council doesn’t have the power to implement such a proposal even if it came up with one – so presenting the hopes of a single councillor in the non-ruling group there as a plan is irresponsible.
Labour’s Kew Councillor Janis Blackburne described the story as “scurrilous” and one that could well backfire:
“We’ve been contacted about this by worried residents who are then pretty furious when we tell them the truth of it. This isn’t just a health matter, the hospital is also a vital local employer. It’s completely irresponsible to talk of any plan to move services or the jobs to Skelmersdale when it simply doesn’t exist.”
“We’ve seen enough of local Liberal Democrat rumour mongering to know that this is straight out of the Lib Dem playbook. With these sort of tired old tactics, it’s no surprise that their new candidate polled less than 4 percent of the vote in South Ribble when he stood there last year.”
“Southport residents are no less canny than their South Ribble neighbours when it comes to such antics and we believe they will respond in similar fashion.”
Liz Savage, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for the town, says the hospital’s future is far too important for the opposition to be playing such games with:
“We’ve had very positive talks with the hospital trust’s Chief Executive Silas Nicholls. There is no intention to move anything to Skelmersdale.”
“A new build hospital is clearly needed in Southport due to the problems with the current site – if the Tories will give the funding.”
“Staff at Southport Hospital need to know that all local parties are behind them in their desire to improve local services and are not churning out ridiculous but unsettling rumours such as this.”
“With another expected winter crisis facing the NHS, due in no small part to 42,000 nursing vacancies, you’d think local Lib Dems might have better things to concern themselves with? Sadly, it appears not.”