Clash over Wirral care home review

Council leaders have clashed over the outcome of a legal review into Wirral’s controversial care home closures.

Labour accused the coalition-run town hall of issuing false statements and misrepresenting a judge’s decision as a “victory” for the closure programme.

The row centres around a statement issued last week concerning a judicial review of the Tory/Lib-Dem adminstration’s plans to close the homes.

At a hearing in Manchester, lawyers for campaigners fighting to keep the centres open made a request to change names on the review application document.

This became necessary when the council unexpectedly decided to temporarily keep open the Fernleigh respite centre.

Lawyers acting for Wirral resident Steve Hornby – who has received respite care at Fernleigh – applied to replace him with two others who use care homes still threatened with closure.

But the court ruled they would have to bring their own fresh claim to challenge the council’s decision.

A statement was then issued from Wirral Council press office headlined: “Council successfully opposes judicial review over care homes.”

It continued: “Wirral Council has successfully opposed an application to the High Court for a judicial review which would have prohibited it from closing Maplehome, Pensall, Poulton, Meadowcroft and Fernleigh at the end of March 2011.

“Announcing the decision, Cllr Bob Moon, Wirral’s Cabinet Member for Social Care and Inclusion, said that the judicial review would have jeopardised the council’s plans for transforming its services by offering greater choice to people who use services.”

The statement has incensed Labour group leader Cllr Steve Foulkes, who said: “My understanding of the situation is that the court did not rule on the facts surrounding the council’s decision to close five care homes.

“The ruling was on a technicality of whether or not the applicants could be changed at that point to individuals using one of the other care homes after the council withdrew closure of Fernleigh.

“The court decided a fresh application would have to be made in the names of the new service-users.

“The press release on this issue sent out by the council was – to say the least – misleading.

“There seems to be a creeping politicisation of the council press office, which is paid for by council tax-payers, that I find very disturbing.”

He added: “I fail to see how a press release which implied that ‘success’ at the judicial review meant the actual facts surrounding the closures had been considered, can be considered as politically neutral, particularly when it is linked to jubilant comments from Cllr Moon.

“It’s amazing to see how the Conservative views on the use of council facilities for political purposes has changed since they took office.”

Council leader Cllr Jeff Green said: “Labour is clearly disappointed their scaremongering has hit a brick wall.

“The judge DID rule on the facts of the case and at the same time we were receiving tenders from reputable, high quality providers to ensure local respite care continues.

“It’s a pity Labour wasn’t as concerned about vulnerable people when they were in control of the council, otherwise we may never have seen adult social care in Wirral rated as the worst in Britain.”