CONTROVERSIAL plans to privatise care homes have been backed by First Minister Alex Salmond, reports MIKE DELANEY.
He said Fife Council, which is run by a Scottish National Party-Liberal Democrat coalition, had to take the decision for financial reasons, but safeguards were in place if operators hit the sort of problems suffered by Southern Cross.
A fortnight ago, he said the crisis facing the company - which has two homes in Glenrothes - was a “cautionary note” for those who wanted to privatise care.
But this week, in a letter to Labour MSP Claire Baker, he said: “The decision was made primarily because the council could not afford to replace the council care homes.
“I have been assured that the council have plans in place to secure continuity of care for all Fife care home residents.”
Mr Salmond also pointed out that similar moves had been made by other councils, including those run by Labour.
But Ms Baker said his stance was a “surprise” and “very disappointing”.
“Staff, residents and families at Fife’s council-run care homes deserve better than that and so do the majority of Fifers who voiced their opposition to the plan in the council’s consultation,” she added.
Labour councillors will try to halt the privatisation of 10 council care homes when the capital budget goes before councillors for agreement on Thursday.
The budget includes a recommendation to take back monies set aside for the building of replacement council care homes.
Fife Labour finance spokesperson, Mark Hood, said “The current administration has had four years in which to come up with a way forward that would renew and refurbish the council’s care homes and they have failed to do so.
“Now with no ideas and no vision they want to cut and run leaving no way back for public sector provision in Fife.”
The future of the Southern Cross homes - including Woodside Court and Balfarg in Glenrothes - could be decided at a meeting of all interested parties this week.
The company is thought to have paid off around 300 people in Scotland.
But it is not known if posts have gone at the local homes and they have referred inquiries to their headquarters.