Tories call for investigation and commitment to future investment.
The Conservative opposition group on Birmingham city council have called for an investigation into the council’s handling of proposed changes to Day Centres as well as a firm commitment to protect and invest in the future of these centres to provide certainty to service users and carers.
Last week, it was revealed that backbench councillors were misled on controversial proposals to close day centres, including denying the existence of a consultants report that helped shaped those proposals. An apology from the Director of Social Care says that “officers provided (the committee) with answers which were wrong and other officers failed to take opportunities to correct misunderstandings.”
The letter refers to an enclosed report that has not been made been public, even in redacted reform, prompting furtherconcerns about the lack of openness and transparency. The controversial strategy was cancelled yesterday, with the council blaming the Covid pandemic and making no reference to the revelations about the secret report.
Cllr Ewan Mackey (Con, Sutton Roughley) Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “It has nothing to do with Covid and everything to do with a five year-long failure of this administration to treat the user and carers of day centres with any respect. It is a failure in executive decision making, it is a failure in officer management, it is a failure in scrutiny’s ability to hold them to account and it is a failure of all three to listen to and act on the concerns of all those people crying out to be heard since they first put forward budget savings for day centre closures.
“Instead users have had the threat of closure hanging over them all this time like the sword of Damocles. They have had to fight judicial reviews and run petition and protests, they have been denied the chance to speak publicly at scrutiny and had their consultation responses omitted from cabinet papers. They have been promised co-production and handed down decisions from on high telling them they are wrong.”
The Conservative group have campaigned for the protection of the future of Day Centres alongside users and are calling for them to be put at the centre of a new strategy that listens to users concerns.
Cllr Matt Bennett (Con, Edgbaston) Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Well-being said: “The strength of feeling shown by campaigners against day centre closures shows just how valued these places are. Day Centres are a lifeline to those that use them, they provide companionship, activities, a link to the outside world as well as practical support and information.
“They offer added value beyond the purposes for which they are funded and beyond the initial expectations of those who attend. The council needs to end the uncertainty and show a clear commitment to the future of day centres and a plan to invest in and modernise these centres to enable wider community benefits.
“Moreover they need to start following their own stated principles and properly engage with users and carers who are directly impacted by services and have first-hand experience of what works well and what doesn’t. They cannot do that if they hide reports and bar people from speaking at public meetings, trust between users and carers is at an all time low and needs an urgent reset.”
The Conservative Group have highlighted how consultation responses omitted from the original cabinet decision report had referenced this secret report, and how members of the public who had suggested that it did, had been blocked from speaking publicly at a subsequent call-in meeting of scrutiny. They are now calling for a full investigation into the council’s handing of into the future of Day Centres.
Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) Leader of the Conservative Group added: “This affair has worrying echoes of what we have seen recently in Home to School Transport where even as we speak there is an ongoing investigation into the accuracy of information into failings there. This cannot be put down to one rogue officer but points to a deeper cultural issue of a council addicted to secrecy.”