Cheshire West and Chester Council has denied an NHS claim it ‘wanted to charge’ them for lighting up civic buildings in blue to mark today’s 70th anniversary of the health service.
The council accepts it did ask the NHS if there was a budget for the project as changing bulbs and filters costs money which may have led to the initial misunderstanding.
But the authority has now stated categorically there was never any intention to charge for the celebrations.
Everything has now been smoothed over with the Eastgate Clock and Chester Town Hall due to ‘turn blue’ this evening at no cost to the NHS.
Councillor Karen Shore, cabinet member environment at CWaC, said in a statement released today (Thursday, July 5): “We did not seek to charge the NHS for lighting any buildings.
“The council is delighted to be able to support this great celebration of the NHS by lighting our public buildings.”
Buildings across the country will be lit up in blue including Liverpool Town Hall, Manchester Town Hall, Blackpool Tower, Mersey Gateway Bridge, York Minster and the Houses of Parliament.
This is to commemorate 70 years since the NHS was launched by the Labour government’s then health secretary Aneurin Bevan at Park Hospital in Manchester – known today as Trafford General Hospital – on July 5, 1948.
That’s why Bob Clough-Parker, secretary of Chester Business Club, was surprised to receive an email on Monday from Hayley Edwards, communications and engagement officer for NHS England, asking city firms to participate because she claimed the Labour authority was only prepared to get involved for a fee.
She wrote: “To date we have nowhere in Chester lighting up (the council wanted to charge us!) so it would be great to have some support in the city!”
Based on the email received, Mr Clough-Parker commented: “I was surprised the Labour council didn’t want to support this free of charge given the NHS is heralded as one of the Labour Party’s greatest achievements.”
He said the invitation for Chester businesses to get involved appeared to be a last minute idea as the email arrived just two days before the event.
“We would happily have cascaded this information if we had been given three or four months notice rather than receiving it 48 hours before the event,” he added.
The Chronicle had asked Cheshire West and Chester Council yesterday (Wednesday, July 4) to comment on the email from NHS England but at the time they declined.
The Eastgate Clock is lit with LED technology, so it’s quite easy for council lighting engineers to alter the colour. For the town hall they can swap lamps and add blue filters to the front of the lighting units.
Both structures have previously turned green to support a local cancer charity and pink for Breast Cancer Awareness week, the lights have also been turned off for Earth Hour
Labour council chairman Cllr Bob Rudd (Garden Quarter) said in a statement: “We are delighted to be involved in this national celebration, where the country is marking the founding of the NHS.
“The NHS has been involved in much more than providing health care, it has played a major part in tackling many diseases such as polio as well as helping pioneer new medical treatments.”
Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Alex Black (Lab, Hoole) added: “Happy birthday NHS. We will be keeping the town hall and Eastgate Clock blue for a few nights to give people a chance to see them and take photographs.
“I would like to encourage any churches, mosques, historic buildings and homes, village halls and any other buildings across the borough to get involved and light up blue, if they have the facilities to do so.”
The NHS Choices website includes an overview of the milestones of the NHS in England from its launch in 1948 to the present day.
For the first time, it meant hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide services for free at the point of delivery.