Angry scenes as Wirral Council axes care homes

A FRAUGHT meeting of Wirral’s budget council saw protestors ordered to leave the public gallery as tempers flared over the closure of care homes.

As expected, the coalition administration voted through its proposals which had been approved by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat cabinet last week.

It means a Wirral council tax freeze for the coming financial year – but the price to pay is 1,100 town hall jobs and the highly-controversial axing of five respite care homes.

Campaigner Brian Donaldson – whose severely disabled 28-year-old son receives respite care at the Maplehome home six times a year – presented last night’s Wallasey Town Hall meeting with a petition of nearly 2,000 signatures pleading for a reprieve for the five homes.

He made an emotionally-charged speech urging the council to think again about closing the centres.

Cabinet member for social services Cllr Bob Moon put forward an amendment which said the authority “recognises the deeply felt concerns of service-users and their carers.”

He said the council “shares the aspirations of petitioners that care of the most vulnerable in our borough be one of council’s highest priorities.”

He stressed he was “confident that the council has robust arrangements to support people to get alternative options.”

Councillor Moira McLaughlin backed a Labour group proposal that would keep Maplehome open and grant a six-month reprieve for the other four homes.

She said consultation with carers and users had been “so rushed that it had left them fearful”

Council leader Cllr Jeff Green paid tribute to Mr Donaldson’ statement, which he described as “moving”.

He said: “We have made it clear our key priority is to improve the quality of care for vulnerable people.

“The Care Quality Commission found our services were simply not good enough.

“And may I just say that I’m going to take no lectures from [Labour leader] Steve Foulkes – because you were the people in charge of adult social services at the time they were judged as being the worst in the country.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Councillor Green said the budget ensured no area of Wirral was “left behind” and that it will “keep young children safe and improve life chances and put vulnerable people at the heart of what we do.”

Councillor Foulkes had made a last-ditch plea on Friday evening for Liberal Democrat members of the coalition to “vote with your conscience” over care homes.

He slated the budget and urged council members to “stand up for the people of Wirral.”

He said: “The Liberal Democrats cannot be comfortable to making these decisions. They’re not standing up for their residents.

“I only need 11 Lib-Dems to come across to vote with their conscience about care home cuts.”

However, his tactic failed and Tories and Lib/Dems voted against Labour’s amendment, agreeing to continue with their budget.