Anger over care home debate that never was

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THE grieving relatives of an elderly Cupar man who died in North Eden House at the weekend have spoken of their ‘disgust’ after a council meeting called to debate the future of Fife’s care homes descended into chaos after just a few minutes.

Save North Eden Action Group campaigner Dave Skillin, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Yvonne felt so strongly about the issue that they went to Fife House on Tuesday despite Elizabeth’s dad Robert Bell having passed away on Sunday, aged 95.

Opposition councillors – including Cupar Independent Bryan Poole – had called for the meeting amid concerns about the legitimacy of the decision taken by the social work committee earlier this month to privatise all 10 of Fife’s council-run care homes.

They claimed that a motion put forward by the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration was incompetent.

The Skillin family were amongst dozens of relatives and carers from all over the Kingdom who had gone along in the hope of having the debate re-opened, but the meeting came to an abrupt halt before it even started on a point of procedure.

There were gasps of disbelief as Provost Frances Melville declared that the meeting couldn’t go ahead because two-thirds of the council had to agree to the suspension of standing order number 31, which says that no motion or resolution inconsistent with a previous decision can be entertained within six months unless the Provost rules that new information is available or that there has been a material change of circumstances since the decision was taken.

However, Provost Melville made no such ruling and there were not enough Opposition councillors to make up two-thirds of the 52 who were in attendance.

The Liberal Democrat and SNP councillors then filed out of the rear entrance to the chamber to boos and cries of ‘shame on you’ from the packed public gallery.

“Many people had gone to a lot of trouble to attend that meeting, but it was obvious they had no intention of even giving us a whiff of a debate,” said Dave (73).

“It was all just a set-up, and when they left the council chamber they had smirks on their faces.

“It was a complete waste of time and money, and certainly wasn’t democracy.

“However we won’t give up the fight.

“We feel very strongly that North Eden should continue to be run by the local authority.

“My father-in-law was there for a year-and-a-half and the care he received was second to none.

“In the last couple of days of his life, the staff couldn’t have done enough for us.”

Councillor Poole said he was ‘flabbergasted’ at the turn of events, while Save North Eden House campaigner Ann Brown vowed that the group would not give up the fight.

“We intend to do everything in our power to overturn this decision to privatise the care homes,” she said.

“We were appalled that the administration weren’t even prepared to have a debate and we wonder what it is they are afraid of.

“This certainly won’t be forgotten when the council elections come round in 2012.”