Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Runaway Train

It's that time of year again when Carmarthenshire Council attempts to struggle with it's shrinking budget. The Chief Executive has blamed the 'runaway train' of social care costs as the prime problem, and it looks like the two care homes for the elderly in Llanelli will be once again under threat of closure. There are a couple of things I fail to understand. Firstly, why have there not been accurate predictions over the past five or so years that demand on social care services would increase to such a level as to be, apparently, bankrupting the council. This Council, like others, is very fond of commissioning (at great expense) population predictions, retail surveys, housing projections etc etc so surely it should come as no surprise that this was a very predictable trend and financial contingency plans could have been earmarked years ago. Secondly, the Chief Executive stated that £2m could be saved by closing 100 empty care home beds - am I missing something? If there is such a demand on services why are there 100 empty beds?
The decision, back in February to keep the two Care Homes open was a small flash of democracy which appears to have stuck in the craw of the leader, party leaders and officers who had recommended closure. They, for once, didn't get their own way. Have there been deliberate moves since then to ensure the homes stayed empty and underused? Who knows.
Clearly there are financial problems facing Carmarthenshire council, and all other councils, which will have to be addressed, hopefully in a fair, transparent and democratic fashion over the next few months....

It goes without saying really but anyone who has read this blog will find numerous examples of profligacy and waste, and so I hope it will not only be 'runaway trains' under consideration but those containing the gravy will too.
Our councillors have, in the past eight months, cost us £897,281 and included in that figure is £184,956 'Special Responsibility Allowance' and £29,950 in travelling. The six Directors and the Chief Executive have coined in £971,037 between them, inclusive of pension contributions and, along with the Assistant Chief Executive have claimed over £20,000 in expenses. That figure doesn't include the Chief Executive's fee as Returning Officer for elections. Add some of the slightly inexplicable travelling costs and hotel stays revealed in the credit card expenses and one wonders just which runaway train is out of control.

In brief, I hear that the action group (YPAG) fighting to save Pantycelyn secondary school, Llandovery, from closure has completed the pre-action stage of correspondence prior to seeking permission, from the courts, for a Judicial Review against Carmarthenshire Council. Should it go ahead I imagine a bottomless pit of cash will be unearthed to ensure a victory for the council. Watch this space.


Nospin said...

what about the costs of a golf course and a religious charity.

how on earth in this day and age has the council got a 100 care beds empty, that just does not ring true.

Deryk Cundy said...

This is a can of worms that you are playing with...

To blame the Care Homes for the increasing cost to the Social Care budget is amazing.

As they have been in Council Control for over a decade you would have thought that the Council Officers would have been able to set a budget that would cover them.

Surely that is not bebyond the skill sets of these highly paid executives.

To constantly blame a budget overspend does not speak so much of a people running away with Public Moneis but rather of Council Officers underestimating the spend in the first place.

As far as I am aware both Caemaen and St Pauls are operating at full capacity so obviously these 100 place that the Chief Exec (no less), mentions must be either in Carmarthen or in the more Rural parts.

As you have said the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal year was a democratic vote concerning the Care Homes in the County Council Chamber - an excellent debate and a fair result - to keep the Homes open for the forseeable future.

Sadly the Officers and their tame Councillors were outraged. So much so that Meryl Gravel stuck £500,000 on the rates there and then to cover the costs of the Care Homes that were now to be kept open.

The Councillors and Council Officers are a disgrace to keep bring up the closure of these homes.

They obviously cannot realise the mental cruelty that they are causing to the residents of any of the Care Homes by threatening to evict them yet again.

This will be the third Christmas that they have cast a shadow over these vulnerable people's lives.

We all know that the policy is to keep people in their own homes as long as possible with support but only last week there was a report produced speaking of the poor care given in some of these environments.

The problem is that at some stage people cannot survive in their own homes without 24 hour help and it is these people who have to be in Residential Care Homes looked after 24 hours per day.

It is these people who some County Councillors want to treat like prisoners and isolate them in their own homes.

This is shameful treatment of the most vulnerable.

We also know that the County Council has a £4,000,000 contract with a Domicilliary Care Provider so perhaps it is this that they didn't budget for.

Who knows how the Council spends the Public Purse?

Certainly not on the elderly if thay can help it!!!!

RACHC (Residents Against Care Home Closure)

Bernard said...

I dreamt last night that I was in Carmarthen watching a Council procession.

In front was the Chief Executive on a Sedan Chair. He was fully dressed in pirate uniform, black mask, eyepatch and a pair of flintlocks in his bandana.
The chair was carried by four people again in masks.

Following the chair was the Council Leader, dressed as an Eagle (what a walking Eagle depicted I don't know - maybe Google will clarify that).

Following the Eagle were the Councillors, the first half a dozen or so with masks and big grins on their faces.
The remainer of Councillors followed behind, all shackled together with rusty chains and looking pretty downcast.

Then I woke up !!!!!!! It was horrible.

Cneifiwr said...

An excellent post, and a very interesting comment from Deryk Cundy.

Social care is going to be top of the agenda between now and the next council elections. I only hope the local press does half as good a job as this blog in highlighting the issues and creating a genuine debate about what the council's priorities should be.

Perhaps the chief executive, with his talk of a runaway train, is finally beginning to realise that the gravy-laden carriage is about to hit the buffers.

Bernard - I think that particular eagle has not been air borne for some time. My predicition for 2012 is that it will become an ex-eagle.