Lincolnshire County Council’s executive has voted unanimously to implement controversial proposals for county care services on July 5.
The plans include closing the eight care homes run by the authority, as well as introducing “personal budgets” for care service users, who’ll be able to spend the allocated money on whatever services they want.
At the heart of the new care service strategy is the notion that the private market will fill the gaps left by the retreat of public care services.
This, argues the authority, will give care service users more choice and freedom over the services they receive.
Savings potentially run into millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs will be lost, though Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of the Conservative authority, insisted that “the driver behind this is not financial savings”.
Councillor Graham Marsh, Executive Member for Adult Social Care, 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very disappointing that some people would wish to deny people personal choice by insisting that we maintain expensive, out-of-date buildings to deliver services which can be delivered as far more cost effective, and as good quality, in the private and third sectors.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.”
Unison members could be heard chanting: “Martin Hill, here us say, how many homes have you shut today?”
A rally against the proposals was held by public sector workers’ union UNISON outside the County Council’s offices ahead of the executive meeting.
Elaine Smith, whose mother is a former care service user in the county, made several comments from the public gallery throughout the meeting.
She declared that executive councillors were telling “fairy tales” and left the meeting, after Cllr Hill threatened to suspend it and have her removed from the public gallery.
Speaking at the rally, she 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.”
John Sharman, Lincolnshire Branch Secretary for UNISON, told The Lincolnite at the rally: “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.”
He added: “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.”