Social work chief defends care home decision

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THE row over the fate of Fife Council’s care homes took another twist this week as the man spearheading privatisation plans sought to defend his stance in the face of a legal challenge.

A group of Opposition councillors, including Cupar Independent Bryan Poole, have lodged a formal complaint with Fife Council’s chief executive Ronnie Hinds following last week’s controversial vote to hand over the running of the 10 local authority-run homes to the private sector.

They claim that the motion put forward by social work committee chairman Tim Brett was ‘incompetent’ and have called for an emergency meeting of the full council on the issue, which will be held within the next few days.

The basis of their complaint is that the SNP/Liberal Democrat administration had ‘distorted’ a motion passed by a cross-party review group in June 2008, when it was unanimously agreed that a programme of replacing care places should begin.

But it had also been agreed at the time that Fife Council should remain a direct provider — words that had been omitted in the motion passed at the social work committee.

Declared Councillor Poole: “This is akin to altering the minutes of meetings and could bring the council into disrepute.”

However, Councillor Brett said that things had changed since 2008 and the council was now faced with some ‘very difficult’ financial decisions.

Savings of some £34 million had to be made and the local authority could not afford to replace the homes.

He said it had been ‘right and proper’ that the committee had made the decision rather than it being ‘slipped through’ at yesterday’s budget meeting.

“We can’t make savings of £34 million without doing things differently and for many this is an unpalatable decision, “ he said.

“I understand that people have very strong feelings about this issue, but even if the council had been able to replace all the care homes itself the residents would still have had to move.

“There are 300 people in council care homes in Fife at present and 2000 in homes run by the private sector.

“Care Commission findings show that there’s no difference at all in the standard of care provided.”

Councillor Brett added that officials had had discussions with developers and it was hoped that a site could be identified in Cupar on which to build a modern care home that would eventually replace North Eden House.

He said: “We are trying to balance the needs of our current residents and their relatives with the need to update our homes to meet the needs of the future.”