Dave Hodgson’s monthly column: Our hospital campaign matters more than saving money

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The Mayor of Bedford writes every month for BedfordToday and the Times & Citizen

The fact that instead we are not is in large part down to the campaign fought to save our local police force. As we continue the fight to stop the downgrading of Bedford Hospital, we should take note of the parallels between these situations facing vital local public services and the lessons we can learn.

Just over a couple of years ago, a merger of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Police looked a near-certainty. All of the senior figures involved appeared to have decided that it was to happen, and it was presented as an essential step in the name of “efficiency”.

This all overlooked a rather important point: Local residents did not want it. I spoke to as many local people as possible about what was proposed for their police force, and there was overwhelming concern about what it would mean.

Everyone recognised that police needed to make savings and for forces to work together, but to have our local force swallowed up as part of a merged force with the larger Hertfordshire force, and possibly later the Cambridgeshire force as well, was simply unacceptable.

Our policing priorities would have struggled for attention against those of large and distant towns, in a service run more remotely from local communities.

The similarities in the case of the campaign to Save Bedford Hospital are overwhelming. As we know, ultimately the police plans fell, with the government stepping in after public opposition to the plans.

We need to send a similarly forceful message to the NHS and to the government this time around. They need to know that as a community we will not accept the downgrade of our local hospital and cuts to key services which will be no more “efficient” for local residents here than a more distant, merged police force would have been.