Essex Social Services Transfer Plan Faces Hold-Up

A NEW approach to providing adult social services has been criticised by opponents of the ruling Conservative group on Essex County Council.

Leader of the Labour group Paul Kirkham has used his powers to force a delay in the introduction of the new system, after the authority’s cabinet provisionally gave the go-ahead.

The Tories say the planned move will give elderly people more control over the help they receive.

But Labour have called for further debate, claiming the scheme is a misguided first step towards “selling off” key services.

The cabinet had approved proposals to transfer its adult social care provider services into local authority trading companies under a group holding company, Essex Cares, on condition that a business plan be drawn up.

The scheme would integrate the Essex equipment service, community support services – such as day care, domiciliary care and reablement – and employment and inclusion services, into the open market.

Councillor David Finch, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for adults, health and community wellbeing, said: “This is an opportunity to offer services more flexibly and cost-effectively outside the constraints of the county council.

“Services are not being withdrawn or reduced, what’s changing is the management of our staff who will remain with customers, ensuring we retain their expertise.

“But I know some people may fear these changes and I want to assure people it is Essex County Council’s responsibility to safeguard vulnerable residents and that responsibility will not change.”

Mr Kirkman said: “It is my belief that the Tories are doing this with a future intention of fully privatising these services, which support the elderly and vulnerable people of Essex.”

Now Labour has called in the decision, it is likely to go before one of the council’s committees, whose members may make recommendations to be considered by the cabinet.