There have been a glut of important meetings at Southend Council this week, with the three scrutiny committees preceding last night’s full council. It provides plenty of material for a local politics blogger to pick over, but sadly it does leave me on the back foot a little, juggling it with a full-time job and something approximating a life.
So with that in mind, come back in time with me to the People Scrutiny Committee meeting from Tuesday 15th June, to witness some bizarre statements from Tory members of the council.
Now, it’s only a few months since the Tories were in power, and certain of those councillors now in opposition were sat around the cabinet table. One of these was Cllr Lesley Salter, who held the brief now held by Labour’s David Norman; Adult Social Care, Health & Housing.
This brief includes, under the Adult Social Care head, responsibility for he council-owned and -ran care homes. Under the Tory administration two of these, Delaware House and Priory House, were marked for closure. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the most popular of moves, particularly with residents of the homes and their families.
One of the first announcements of the new administration was a review of that very decision. It isn’t, as Cllr Norman has made clear, a pledge to reverse to a decision, but rather to look at whether the homes can be saved. Financial concerns are, of course, important, but so too are the futures of the residents.
So, I am somewhat perplexed at Cllr Salter’s reaction to the review. At this week’s meeting of the People Scrutiny Committee meeting, she said of it:
“There is a huge cost. I’m not talking about a human cost, but an emotional cost. The relatives of residents will have had 18 months to look elsewhere if the original decision stood, and they have put on hold. If the review still concludes to close the centres, then they will have just six months.“
(On a side note: this quote is from the Echo, as I wasn’t able to attend for long, and there was no recording. Why is only full council webcast? Are the scrutiny committees less important? Not in this blogger’s opinion.)
To clarify, that is Cllr Salter, a former portfolio holder, worrying about the emotional cost to care home residents and their families of trying not to close the homes. Is she being ironic? Has some strange sarcasm not translated?
I agree that residents and families are under a lot of stress, but that’s not because of the review. It’s because of the decision that she made to close their homes! Cllr Salter seems to be dead set on defending her decision on the matter, yet seems very hostile to the idea of reviewing it. Is she worried, perhaps, that it won’t stand up to scrutiny?
Nobody has committed to reversing the decision, and that is right — we have had quite enough knee-jerk governance from the Conservatives at Southend Civic Centre and in Westminster. But if the care homes can be saved, then they should be. And shame on Cllr Salter to play such crass politics with this issue.