Wednesday, 6 July 2011

County Council's Executive Vote to Close Linelands

Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive today voted unanimously to implement proposals for Lincolnshire's care services. The plans include five care homes closing in September and the other three -  including Linelands in Nettleham - will close at the end of March next year after suitable private alternatives are found.

Above: Unison members demonstrate outside Lincolnshire
County Council headquarters. © 2011 Lincolnshire Echo
The authority argues that delivering a better quality of social care in the future requires delivery by the private sector and the end of council-run care facilities. The authority expects savings, potentially running to millions of pounds. The plans will mean many jobs will be lost, although, Leader of the Council, Cllr. Martin Hill, Conservative (Folkingham Rural Division), insists that:
"the driver behind this is not financial savings."
Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr. Graham Marsh, Conservative (Alford & Sutton on Sea Division), told the meeting:
"I think it's very disappointing that some people would wish to deny people personal choice by insisting that we maintain expensive, out-of-date buildings to deliver services which can be delivered as far more cost effective, and as good quality, in the private and third sectors.

"When I retire, if I'm unfortunate enough to need services, I don't want to be given the same choices that my parents had, which was take it or leave it as there's nothing else available."
"This is change for the better – today's decision will be looked back on as the day the lives of care home residents took a huge stride forward in quality.

"We know the word 'closure' could be seen as negative and, very understandably, cause some carers and families to be worried. However, what we are closing are old, outdated homes – both the current and future generations of residents deserve better."
A rally against the proposals, co-ordinated by Unison outside the County Council’s offices, ahead of the executive meeting rallied only twenty-five people. Those at the rally could just be heard chanting:
"Martin Hill, here us say, how many homes have you shut today?"
Mrs. Elaine Smith, whose mother is a former care service user in the county, interrupted proceedings by shouting comments from the public gallery throughout the meeting until she declared that members of the council's Executive councillors were telling 'fairy tales' and Cllr. Hill was forced to suspend the meeting and threatened to have her removed from the public gallery. Mrs. Smith left the gallery.

Mrs. Smith told The Lincolnite:
"I think it’s totally wrong. Initially they were saying they want a mixed economy of care, which obviously includes public sector care as well as private care.

"There won’t be any mixed economy. There won’t be a benchmark and I do worry about the future of care that people will receive that now will lose these services and will need them in the future."
Mr. John Sharman, Lincolnshire Branch Secretary for Unison, unconvincingly tried to make an ill-informed link between the tough measures being taken by the Coalition Government as a result of the economic legacy left to the previous Labour government :
"What happens when the market gets it wrong?

"Let's remember that the whole attack on public spending and public services is predicated on another part of the market getting it wrong.

“I have no confidence whatsoever in using the private sector market as a regulator of services."
"I wouldn’t want to give false expectations in saying that we believe that a campaign will guarantee [the county council will keep its public care services], but if I didn't have that hope, and if I didn’t believe that what we do could produce a result, I'd pack up and go home, quite frankly.

"I have no intention of doing that."
Mrs. Phyl Lynn, a senior member of staff at Linelands, said:
"It's horrendous. These homes are a lifeline for the residents there. They're important for people to mix with other people. It's everything to them."
Nettleham Parish Councillor Giles McNeill said:
"There are two issues. The first is weather it is right to close the current stock of council-run care homes, the second is the issue of how the staff of these facilities have been treated.
"I have no particular problem with the County Council looking to make the best provision possible available to local residents, unfortunately that means beloved local facilities are having to close. However, it is clear to me that the way the staff have been handled has been very much below standard - the offcious letters, the endless churn of senior staff as individuals have seemingly jumped ship. There have clearly been severe problems in terms of the management of the very valuable human resourse the council employs."

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