SENIOR councillors and health campaigners have reacted with anger after hearing of the “snub” through Coun Richardson’s email.
Councillors were united in their criticism of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust following the revelation that it did not want to attend any public meeting.
Conservative group leader Ray Wells said: “I am extremely saddened and disappointed at the comments made within this letter.
“I believe that it gives a perfect example of the way that the trust conducts its day-to-day business with little or no regard for the people it is meant to serve.
“I’m sure that it will strengthen the negative feelings held by certain parts of the community, including many councillors.
“I would urge the trust to reconsider their position in order that the public have the opportunity to take part in a full and frank debate.
“I believe that if they fail to do this they will be virtually tying the hands of councillors into unanimously condemning their actions.”
Ged Hall, acting leader of the Hartlepool Labour group, said: “Whilst we have every confidence in the doctors and nurses of the NHS Foundation Trust, we are extremely angry at the complete disregard for the people of Hartlepool shown by the administrators of the trust.
“We hope people willl see that it is not the elected councillors who have the responsibility for changing local health services, but unelected bureaucrats.
“We will have no hesitation in supporting any motion in council which condemns the short-comings in communication and consultation with our residents to whom we are responsible.”
Lib Dem councillor Edna Wright, who will put forward a vote of no confidence in the trust, added: “If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear.
“There is some explaining to do on this one, and it appears to be there is something more sinister taking place.
“The sooner Health Secretary Andrew Lansley gets to hear about the way the people of Hartlepool are being treated, the better.”
Save our Hospital campaigner Keith Fisher said he was “delighted” to hear that the trust would not be in attendance.
He said: “I personally don’t want to hear their diatribe any more, I think we’ve heard enough already.
“I applaud the council for taking this stance and I do truly believe that the councillors do genuinely want to stop all this from happening but are just not sure how to go about it.
“The fears of disorder were grossly exaggerated last time and I’m sure people will get their point across at the meeting in the correct manner.”
Referring to the vote of no confidence in the health chiefs, Mr Fisher added: “If that goes through, which I think it will, then I will personally take a copy of the mail to Andrew Lansley and put it in his hand.
“This would be a national precedence where the council has registered a vote of this nature in the health trust. And if that is placed in the hands of the people at the top, then they simply cannot ignore it.”
Independent councillor Geoff Lilley added: “I think this letter shows the contempt that North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust has for the people of this town.
“We have seen major services taken away from our hospital on almost a monthly basis. People have a right to be angry, but that doesn’t mean to say there is going to be disorder.
“Personally, I’m not bothered that the trust aren’t going to the meeting. Since 2003, they have said the same thing anyway.”