THE Prime Minister had a lot to say about Halesowen and Dudley borough when he visited the Halesowen News this week.
David Cameron had tough words for bosses at Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, which is facing a £6.7 million deficit, after health regulator Monitor revealed A&E waiting time targets were being missed.
He said: “The NHS is important, and as a Government we are increasing the money going into the NHS.
“Where there are problems, it is much better we get in and sort it out, so Monitor is helping Dudley NHS Trust to try and deal with the waiting times and the issues about the deficit.
“It is very important people should be able to go to Accident and Emergency and know they will be treated within four hours and it is important Dudley gets back to that point.”
And the PM even suggested a team from the Department of Health could be sent in to run the hospital.
He said: “It is much better for people to come in and turn things round. What we see now across the NHS where there are hospitals which need help is instead of the old way of sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the problems, we can now send a team in and turn things around.”
The bullish premier then turned his attention on Dudley Council which has blamed Government cuts for a reduction in services.
He said: “What I would say to Dudley Council is the year that just finished, 2013/2014, they had £303 million to spend.
“That is more than they had in 2010 when I became PM which was £295m.
“They have to make difficult decisions but they had more to spend last year than when I became Prime Minister, which is not a cut.”
He added: “And the money the council gets from other areas means they are reasonably funded.
“They still have £54 million in reserves and still £3.8 million outstanding in council tax arrears and have the opportunity to share local services with other local authorities.”
He added: “So if they do all those they should be able to provide a good service for taxpayers.”
When asked when the economic recovery will take hold in Halesowen the PM had the latest job figures to hand.
He said: “There are signs the economy is growing in this region there are 81,000 people more in work across West Mids than when I became Prime Minister.
“Looking at Halesowen, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit has gone down by 30 per cent since the election so we are seeing people getting jobs.
He added: “Having a strong local MP like James Morris who is holding jobs fairs and working with colleges, schools and businesses and encouraging them to work together is also important.
He added: “So in Halesowen we are seeing a fall in the amount of claimants and the youth claimant count is going down which I think is very important.”
With Halesowen town centre still struggling, Mr Cameron outlined new benefits for local businesses but admitted more needed to be done to improve local high streets.
He said: “In terms of local towns, we have done some important things like cutting business rates, which save a typical high street business £1,000 and we just brought in the Employment Allowance which will cut a business’ National Insurance by £2,000. But we all need to do more to promote local high streets and local shops.”
Mr Cameron, who sent his condolences to the family of murdered Halesowen schoolgirl Christina Edkins when she was tragically murdered last year, also spoke about the anti-knife legislation passed since her killing.
He said: “The legislation we recently put through for mandatory sentences for a second offence, which James was very supportive of, is part of what we are doing to tackle knife crime.
“We have got to get to the stage where carrying a knife in public is totally unacceptable in this country and this is the reason for having tough sentences.”
He added: “We need to change the culture in the country and changing the law as we have done is part of this.”
On leaving the Halesowen News offices, the Prime Minister said: “It is great to see up close the work that local newspapers do in the community and a pleasure to see such a thriving newsroom.”