Saturday, 3 March 2012

Council has failed those in need at Nelson Court

 A great dis-service has been done to those in need by the ruling Conservative group in Medway council.

Nelson Court
The on going saga of Medway's elderly care homes is drawing to a close but not in the way campaigners, including myself, had hoped.

Now I know that in politics as in warfare, you cannot win every battle and as much as you believe you are correct and your opponents are wrong there are occasions when it works out the other way.
Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - other times the state or majority are shown to be oppressing the few and the decision is reversed.
All you can hope for is that the process and consultation is just and fair, all get to speak and that the deliberations are carried out in a balanced manner.

This has not been the case for the care homes.

It is true, that in these times of austerity tough decisions will have to be made, services are going to suffer one way or the other - for good or bad we're in this together and unfortunately the innocent will suffer with the guilty - well apparently.

For the moment the Balfour centre has a temporary reprieve - the two general care homes (Robert Bean Lodge in Rochester and Platters farm Lodge) are to be outsourced but ultimately they will remain under the control of the Council and available to the public and as the staff should have their contracts taken over by the new owner. Touch wood they will remain the same and continue under the same high standards at no extra cost.

Nelson's lodge, the specialist dementia care home, is to be sold of to a Private provider. I must admit that I have been unable to get to the scrutiny meetings or indeed the council meetings due to life and work getting in the way but, Maureen Ruparel, the organiser of the Save Nelson Court group has kept up updates on the Facebook group and, as a Liberal Democrat has sent regular reports to the Executive Committee meetings so I will use those from henceforth.

According to Maureen's posts the consultation has been a "Charade" and to quote her directly (from the 15th February - sited on the Facebook group)

As we suspected, the Conservatives haven't listened to the people. the cabinet has decided to go ahead with the sell off in spite of all the feeling against it. What a farce this consultation business is - the money would be better spent on services instead of all the paper, postage and officer time needed for a bit of theatre that is absolutely meaningless.

Indeed, Cllr Osborne (lab) had suggested that the Consultation was a forgone conclusion with the Cllr Jarrett having already pre-budgeted for the sale before the Consultation had even started. If this claim is true it would mean that however the Consultation went it didn't matter. It was always going to be their aim. There were also suggestions that the meetings were not taken seriously by those on the committee.
Cllr Juby

Another meeting was called by the Labour group on Thursday evening to discuss Co-oping them. The problem with this meeting is that our councillors (Dianna Smith, Shelia Kearney and Geoff Juby) were told that they were not allowed to speak, nor were the public. Maureen had this to say on Facebook;

I have just walked out of the scrutiny meeting held this evening as my blood pressure couldn't take any more of the crass attitude of the Tories. In spite of a request put by the Labour Party they still refused to allow any members of the public to speak, and on top of this they even refused to allow other elected councillors to address the committee!!! This is not democracy, it is total dictatorship and after completely ignoring the results of the so called public consultation they are determined to press ahead with the sell off of one of the council's prize assets. Labour and Liberal Democrats have only asked that the council look at other ways of saving the money, and at least let the management and staff put forward ideas for making savings, but the Conservatives are hell bent on getting rid of Nelson Court, and the other two facilities, at the earliest opportunity with no concept of how this will affect staff, residents and relatives. In the beginning of this campaign we tried to keep politics out of it, and hoped that the voices of those most concerned with the well being of our many frail elderly with special care needs would be heard. Unfortunately the intransigence of the ruling group and their refusal to listen to the public forced political action.

Geoff Juby, leader of the Libdem Council group had this to say as well;

To not only refuse to allow members of the public to speak or ask questions, but to also refuse to allow another democratically elected councillor to address the committee, is dictatorship of the worst kind.  We are quick to criticise other regimes elsewhere for refusing to listen to the public, but the ruling Tory group have totally ignored the overwhelming public consultation on the matter of our care homes, have gagged their staff and are now gagging other councillors and those members of the public who have come to the meeting.

This is a desperate situation and a lot of people are really concerned, in fact there may be current patients who are unable to use the services under private care providers. Maureen's husband, who uses Nelson court was unable to find a Private provider to take him as he needs are so specific as are his cultural needs. This is akin to shutting them for good to those users.

As the Council's bandwagon rattles on and wastes money, like the money thrown away on the bus station or on Jubilee mugs, or on lapsed photocopier contracts... the list of waste and mismanagement has been fairly lengthy but who is being forced to suffer? What could Nelson Court have done with the money that has been wasted and will be wasted on other vanity projects, including City status?

I don't normally wave the banner and shout but this, in my opinion has been a miscarriage of justice and procedure and those in serious need are being cast aside to get by as best they can. Personally I feel it is wrong.

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