Health & Social Care

It’s Scottish Government policy that health & social care services are integrated. This makes absolute sense given the close connections between health services managed by the NHS and social care services managed by the local authorities.

The model in Argyll & Bute is a legally consituted body called the Integrated Joint Board for Health & Social Care (IJB). The IJB is responsible overall with the NHS and Argyll & Bute Council being partners and with each continuing to employ NHS and social work staff respectively.

In June this year the IJB agreed on a programme of cuts totalling some £8.5m. I’ll just cite a small number of these affecting the Bute & Cowal area to demonstrate the impact:

  • Review a number of high cost care at home pacakges to save £200k
  • Review and remove some sleepover support services to save £150k
  • Close existing dementia day service and fund befriending service to save £10k
  • Close Struan Lodge as a care home and turn it into a community support hub to save £175k
  • Redesign how homecare services are provided to save £375k
  • Re-design community hospitals to save £2.25m

The problem, apart from the obvious, is that there was no consultation at all about any of these. Any consultation will only be about what happens after these decisions are implemented. There has been a lot of anger and criticism directed at the IJB since it became clear what they planned to do and how they intended going about it.

To take one example, Struan Lodge, there has been no consideration given to what the demand is, either now or in the future. The closure decision has been taken on a zero evidence basis; the only basis appears to be financial. Here is what I wrote to the chief executive of the IJB, Christina West, on 12 August:

Since I was copied into this I think it’s reasonable that I make a point here Christina.

It was the total lack of consultation prior to the decision that is the issue, not how you intend to consult from now on having made the decision.

Not only was there a lack of consultation, the decisions on Thomson Court and Struan Lodge were based on absolutely no evidence of demand. Closure of Struan Lodge today would leave no spare bed capacity at all for Dunoon and Cowal. In 25 years the numbers over 75 will double across Argyll & Bute but I don’t know what the position will be in Cowal, do you Christina?

Pasted below is what I said on 28 July to the locality planning group when I was unable to attend the first group meeting.

Regards

I have not, as yet, seen any evidence that supports the proposal to close the care beds at Struan Lodge. Let me be clear about what I would need to see before I could support any such decision:

  • A long term, ie 25 year minimum, projection on the numbers of elderly people in Cowal.
  • Within this, I’d need to see a breakdown of the numbers in various elderly age groups based on best projections of increasing life expectancy.
  • The next key part of the information needed would be projections of the elderly who would need care of some type, split by care type. Having a larger percentage of the elderly cared for at home is accepted but with the growth in the numbers of elderly people, this could still mean an increase in the absolute number of care beds that are needed.
  • All of the above needs considered against current and projected future capacity.

As of today, there are 10 bed vacancies in Cowal. I got this from the papers for next week’s area committee. I am told that one of the care homes with 8 of these vacancies can’t actually fill them due to either finance or staffing issues. Even if that information is incorrect, closing Struan today would fill current spare capacity.

3 years ago, when the ill-conceived proposal to close Struan first surfaced, we were told there were 38 bed vacancies. We have a maximum of 10 today so demand has increased in 3 years; what will happen over the next 25+ years?

The empirical evidence to support the closure of care beds needs to be both long term and as sound as it can be before any decisions are taken. It’s far harder to create new capacity than it is to shrink it.

I have not had a reply to the above as of today, 23 August. I wonder why.

Update on complaint/hearing

My last post was about the complaint & hearing, details here.

I had what they call a pre-hearing meeting at the offices of the Standards Commission in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday past. What happened I won’t say at this point on the advice of my solicitor but let’s just say someone has blinked, and it’s not me. I’ll report on this as soon as I am able to.

However, what is clear is that the system for dealing with complaints of this nature badly needs overhauled and, once my case is out of the way, that will be on the agendas of quite a few people, me included.

I plan to get something out by tomorrow on the planned cuts by the Integrated Joint Board for Health & Social Care.

The Complaint & The Hearing

I have heard from a number of sources in the council that it’s been common knowledge among staff that there’s to be a hearing about the complaint against me. This was inevitable since the Standards Commissioners’ office booked the venue for the 20th, 21st and 22nd of September.

I always thought that the 22nd was a rather odd day to book Kilmory since this has, for a long time, been the date of a scheduled council meeting. It’s highly unusual to change these dates but late yesterday afternoon we got the following from officers:

Dear Councillor,

 The Executive Director of Customer Services has advised, by agreement with the Provost, that the date of the Council Meeting in September will move from 22nd to Thursday 29th September.

 A revised diary invite will be issued in this regard  but in the meantime, I would be obliged if you would note the change of date.

The Executive Director of Customer Services is one of the 4 complainants. The Provost was one of the complainants in the first complaint against me which was dismissed.

I have kept silent within the  council about the first complaint even after it was found there was no complaint to answer. However, given the staff gossip and the fact that senior councillors in the administration would know about the hearing anyway, I decided to email all councillors, as below. I have no more to say about this for the moment because I am unable to make mention of any detail of the complaint.

I think it’s only right to tell you as fellow councillors why, or probably why, this change of date  was made. Some of you will already know so it’s only fair the rest of you do.

In May 2015 Messrs Loudon, Hendry, Sneddon and Milne submitted a complaint against me to the Standards Commissioner. Despite my efforts to have the complaint dismissed, the Standards Commissioner has decided to hold a public hearing. This will be in Kilmory on 20, 21 and 22 September.

I am not allowed to say anything about the complaint at this stage but when I am allowed to make matters public, I will have a lot to say.

This complaint was submitted while an earlier one was still being considered. That earlier one, made by Cllrs Walsh, Scoullar and E Morton, was dismissed. I have made it clear that the earlier complaint was nasty and vindictive and I do so again now. If you wish to read the decision in my favour then you can do so at:

 http://www.publicstandardscommissioner.org.uk/decisions/decision/734/laab1663

You should all know that if this hearing goes ahead, as looks likely, it’s against a background of me trying on 3 separate occasions to reach some kind of arrangement with the complainants to avoid the inevitable national embarrassment this hearing will cause. They refused each of the 3 attempts to resolve this.

What I am able to tell you is that this process stands as a warning to anyone who is, or who is thinking about being, a councillor. Unless of course you’re the kind of councillor who keeps his or her head down and blindly accepts what you are told.

If however, you’re the kind of councillor who wants to stand up for the people who elected you; if you want to take up causes that you believe to be just; if you are informed and persistent in trying to resolve matters and if you act to try and improve an out of touch council, then a complaint against you is what you might well get.

I intend to win this even if it has to be appealed to the Sherriff Principal.

 Regards

A&B Council: Employability Team

I wrote about the losses of the Employability Team before but since the issue has now been reported on by the Performance Review and Scrutiny (PRS) Committee and the full council meeting in June, I feel the time is right to add my own views.

I wrote a report some time ago on the team’s finances and this can be read here. Summary report on Employability Team It’s best to read this as it’s relatively brief but it demonstrates very weak financial management and absolutely no reporting of the financial problems to elected members. By the time the team is wound up it will have burned its way through £1.2m of your money.

The PRS committee’s report which was agreed at the June council meeting can be found here. EMPLOYABIILITY SERVICE CONTRACT FINAL

This is a pretty damning report, and quite right too. At the council meeting in June I said that had I been responsible for something like this when I was principal of Argyll College, ie take on risky contracts, fail to manage the financial risks and, worst of all, not report the losses to my board, I would have been fired. I would have thoroughly deserved that too.

But, in the lala land of local government, I doubt any such thing will happen. There badly needs to be proper accountability in local government and that means individuals being held accountable. Don’t hold your breath.

 

 

Further update on Castle Toward

I am pleased to say that officers relented on their wish to keep secret the costs of keeping Castle Toward empty. I was given an apology because the information had already been the subject of a Freedom of Information request, which is fine, but it still doesn’t work for me that the elected member of the ward in which the property is, finds it hard to get the figures.

There is no need for me to do anything other than paste below what I got the other day. It’s still a huge sum of money but the daily costs have come down due to the non-recurring costs being calculated over the longer period. The period is  23 August 2013 to 20 July 2016.

What the figures omit is the council officer time devoted to this property, which must be substantial. Perhaps Alan Stewart’s numbers were about right once officer time and travel are factored in, but who knows, because this isn’t counted.

There is no doubt, though, that had there been any willingness whatsoever to make the community buyout succeed, these costs would have been much less. It is still utterly shameful what has happened.

(a)    Security – £538,612.97

(b)   Maintenance and Repairs including asbestos removal – £57,398.38

(c)    Utilities – Heating oil – £40,740.84; Electricity – £11,231.19

(d)   Ground Maintenance – £16,306

(e)   Internal charges – £0

(f)     Any other costs not specified above but which relate directly to the property or its grounds – Insurance – £32,372.09