08:08 Monday 2nd July 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Undoubtedly one topic has got you very very hot under the collar this morning. It’s about Peterborough City Council considering closing its two care homes, Greenwood and Welland House. If it happened, the 32 permanent residents, as well as those needing respite care, would be transferred to one of the city’s private care homes. Joining me now is Wayne Fitzgerald. He’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care at Peterborough City Council. Can you tell us why the Council has decided to consult on these two care homes.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: I think you have to look at everything in the round. It’s a difficult area to deal with, and I understand all the emotions that people express, but one has to take the longer term view and try and plan ahead for the future, and do what’s right for the people of today, and also for the people in the future. So it is about looking ahead, and improving the lives of the people we currently look after, and those that come after as well. So, you know, one has to take this thing seriously. It’s not something one considers doing lightly. And I do understand and sympathise with the views of everybody, but that’s why we are consulting on the process, and taking it forward on that basis.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s not a case of the Council just washing their hands of adult social care.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: No, you can’t do that Paul. The Council will still have some statutory duty to all adults, whether they’re elderly or, you know, we must remember it’s not just about elderly people. Often it gets confused in terms of, you know, adult social care is adult social care. Now I know in this particular case we are talking about mainly elderly people in the two homes. But we’re planning for the future in terms of all the adults we look after in the city.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it possible in the future that the Council will run no care homes in the city?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: That is a possibility obviously, and I don’t aee what the problem that would be in the sense that why is it that the Council must run care homes. There is no .. something set in stone that that’s going to be the case. Nor may it be the best option. That’s why one is talking to people, consulting on the matter, and finding out whether or not what we’re proposing is correct, and we’ll find out.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you not have a moral duty to look after the elderly in this city? A lot of people are very worried about the private health care in the city.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Council do have a moral duty. And part of that moral duty is to give them the best possible care that we can. I would stress to you that, and I’m sure you’ve read the press release, and everybody else may have picked up on the story as well, but the moral duty is there. We provide very good care, but the city is always striving to do better. So there is that moral dilemma in terms of can we do better, can we provide a better service, and yes, we probably can.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s wrong with these two care homes, Welland and Greenwood?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: They’re quite old. In terms of if you were to build them today, you wouldn’t build them that way, because they wouldn’t meet current regulations. They provide adequate care now, but, you know, people’s dignity, people’s quality of life, we can’t improve it there, because of the fabric of the building. They just don’t cut the mustard really.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you say they provide adequate care. We’ve heard from a number of people this morning. This is from Donna, saying “I work at one of the care homes. They all have communal areas. It’s not true they don’t. They all have facilities to use hoists in the bedrooms. They’ve got new floorings.” And she believes you’re doing this because you just want to wash your hands of these homes.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Well, you know, I can tell you that that’s not true in all cases. There are difficulties with ..
PAUL STAINTON: She works there.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: No. I said in all cases. I can’t defend particular points Paul without having the person on the phone. My understanding is from the professionals that there are difficulties, for example, in using hoists in some of the rooms. I didn’t say all. And I didn’t say in both. So it’s not true Paul. There are difficulties in some areas in each home, about different aspects. Some may have a better room for a hoist. Some may not be able to use one at all.
PAUL STAINTON: Well let’s hear what John Toomey said about this subject earliert. (TAPE)
JOHN TOOMEY UNISON: They are lying through their back teeth. I’ll say that. They’ve spent thousands and thousands of pounds on those homes, refurbishing them recently. If you walked over the road to Greenwood House now, you would see new bedrooms, newly carpeted, new beds in there, new car park. An enormous amount of money’s been spent there. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Are you lying Wayne?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Toomey should choose his words very carefully, because I believe it’s an offence to call people liars. So I certainly don’t lie. So if he’s addressing that comment to me, which I’ll take it that he’s not., City Council doesn’t lie. The City Council has presented the facts as they are.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you spent a fortune on these homes? If so, why, if you’re thinking of closing them?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: You asked me about duty of care Paul. Now just because you may be considering making changes, it doesn’t negate the obligation to keep people in the most comfortable environment you can possibly do so. So the money spent is part of that on-going duty of care. But it doesn’t mean to say that that will last for ever. I’ve told you already, it’s about planning for the future as well as today. So there is a point, at what point Paul do you stop paying .. so would it be that the Council just stops investing or replacing things. You can’t do that. The Council still has a duty every day to look after these people. But there is a point where decisions are made. But even right up to that point you’ve still got to .. if something needed repairing or investing, well then you still have to do it. That’s part of your both moral and statutory obligations, to look after people.
PAUL STAINTON: John Toomey also says that the Council may have broken the law. (TAPE)
JOHN TOOMEY UNISON: When the staff transferred back, when the homes transferred back in March, we were supposed to be told about these things in law. That didn’t happen. So that’s an issue we’ve got to deal with. But more importantly, let’s get ..
PAUL STAINTON: You say they’ve broken the law?
JOHN TOOMEY UNISON: Yes. I’m sure they have. Yes. There’s law that covers these transfers, and they have to actually tell you certain things in advance if they know them, or if they’ve been planning this for months, then they should have told us, and they didn’t. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Have you broken the law Wayne?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Toomey again should be very careful Paul. These are part of ongoing service reviews, and have been known about or spoken about for a long long time. So I suggest Mr Toomey wasn’t quite clear. If you aked him a question or played it again, he said I think so, or I’m sure they have. And I’m sure we haven’t, or the Council haven’t.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you taken advice on that?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: (LAUGHS) The Council doesn’t do things Paul. It has its own legal department which advises officers and the Council. So of course everything I’m sure would be correct in terms of the officers do a professional job and their legal department do a professional job. And as for the unions, or Mr Toomey being informed, these are all part of ongoing service reviews.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it possible to keep these homes open? Is it impossible to spend the money needed and make them the homes they need to be.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Paul, I can talk to you from a personal point of view, in the sense that if it were my mother, whilst I’m perfectly content with the care that the staff and everybody else puts in, I would want if possible given the choice to put her somewhere else, because I want to maintain her dignity. I want to give the best possible facilities that she could have if they were available in the city. So I am told, and I believe this to be correct, that for the cost of doing that, it’s impractical to do so. It would mean demolishing them and rebuilding. And that’s just not practical. And it’s not good for the tax payer. One has a duty to everybody in terms of best value and providing the best facilities. So I’ve given you a straightforward answer. There is a possibility. No decision has been made. But I don’t think it’s the best or most practical thing to do, if we’re talking about the buildings alone. You are asking me about the buildings. The buildings could be much better. And there is much better out there at the moment in the marketplace that would provide better services for the people who want to use it.
PAUL STAINTON: Number of quick questions for you that we’ve had from people this morning. A lot of listeners very concerned. Will staff be able to meet the Cabinet before the meeting on 10th July to put their comments and views across?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: As the Cabinet Member, I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I would imagine that, you know, .. the Cabinet meeting by the way Paul is a public meeting. Let’s just first say that.
PAUL STAINTON: So anybody can turn up.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Anybody can turn up to the Cabinet.
PAUL STAINTON: Will they get a chance to speak?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: I believe so. Yes. Particularly of it’s been arranged and allowed for. It’s just a matter of time. I’m sure the Leader of the Council who chairs the meeting will be able to accommodate. And I’m not talking about 50 or 100 people wanting to speak. If there is some organisation in terms of representation, that’s probably the most sensible way to do it. However, what I would say to you is I remain available to anybody who wishes to speak to me and make representation about this consultation process.