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Campaign to save care homes hots up as key councillor quits
8:29am Friday 25th October 2013 in News
A DECISION on the long-term future of four care homes will now be taken by Hampshire County Council’s cabinet following the shock resignation of the spokesperson for adult social services, Anna McNair Scott.
Councillor McNair Scott quit after announcing that she had failed to declare her interests fully.
She was due to announce the fate of the four county council-run care homes – Romsey’s Nightingale Lodge, Cranleigh Paddock, at Lyndhurst, Deeside, Basingstoke and Bulmer House, at Petersfield – on November 28.
Hampshire’s safe and healthy select committee will now consider the proposals on November 22 and the cabinet will make the final decision on December 9.
Councillor Liz Fairhurst has been appointed as Councillor McNair Scott’s replacement on the cabinet.
Hampshire’s social care chiefs want to demolish all four homes and replace them with private extra care sheltered accommodation. They claim it is cheaper to replace the homes with state-of-the-art facilities rather than modernising them.
Hampshire’s leader, Roy Perry, said after Mrs McNair Scott’s resignation on Friday: “Specific concerns were brought to me on Wednesday (October 16) that there might be issues with Cllr McNair Scott’s declarations of interests.
“These I immediately referred to the council’s chief executive and Cllr McNair Scott in order to clarify. She realised that there were inadvertent omissions in her declaration.”
Mr Perry said Mrs McNair Scott was away at a conference in Harrogate at the time and when she returned he discussed the matter with her. “She expressed her deep regret at her oversight in failing to provide a complete disclosure of interests, as required in accordance with the county council’s members’ code of conduct.
“I had no alternative but to accept her resignation from the cabinet. I have already determined that any decision associated with the care homes consultation should be undertaken by the cabinet as a whole and that will remain the case,” added Mr Perry.
In her resignation letter, Mrs McNair Scott said: “I wholeheartedly believe my personal affairs presented no conflict of interest as executive member. I have nevertheless concluded it would be distracting to the overall work of the county council to me to continue as cabinet member at this time.” Campaigners took their fight to keep open the care homes to the heart of decision-making, the council’s HQ, The Castle, on the day Mrs McNair Scott quit.
They handed over petitions with more than 10,000 names on to Hampshire’s UKIP county councillor, Tony Hooke, whose party is backing unions and the public fighting the closures.
There have also been two Facebook campaigns, “Help Save Nightingale Lodge” and “Save Deeside Care Home”, set up by relatives of residents.
Mr Hooke, deputy leader of the UKIP group, said: “The whole closure process is wrong and it’s the officers that are behind it. They are being driven by accounts and spreadsheets and have put this on the councillors to decide.”
He added: “Statistics show that mortality rates are terrible after being moved from one care home to another.”
“Unison and UKIP are working hand in glove and with the same aim to bring this closure nonsense to an end. The consultation has been a sham and relatives have been left in tears and stressed out by the long process, which started in July.”
Shortly after Friday’s handover, Mr Hooke said he was hopeful two of the homes could be saved from closure.
“After talking to one of the senior officers, it is clear that they are listening. I now genuinely believe that Cranleigh Paddock at Lyndhurst will saved and if a compromise is reached by altering the bedrooms, we will be able to save Deeside, at Basingstoke.”
Union bosses echo UKIP’s view that moving elderly residents of care homes into unfamiliar surroundings is detrimental to their health. Unison’s deputy Hampshire branch secretary, Jan Matthews said: “Relatives are worried about what will happen to their loved ones in the care homes. There were 24 deaths after the previous four care home closures in the county. Other local authorities around the country recognise this so-called relocation syndrome but Hampshire doesn’t.”
Campaigners will take to Winchester’s streets on November 21 to demonstrate against the proposals. UKIP councillors are behind the demo and they are encouraging families of residents in the affected care homes to join them.
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