07:08 Friday 31st August 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Without doubt, the biggest and most emotional story we’ve covered over the entire life of the Peterborough Breakfast Show was the City Council’s plan to close two of the city’s care homes. The proposal is currently open to consultation, which ends in November. This week saw workers from both Greenwood and Welland House meet the Leader of the Council, Marco Cereste, to talk about their concerns. Well, Mr Cereste was keen to reiterate that it’s an open consultation, and the Council will listen to people’s concerns. (TAPE)
MARCO CERESTE: Well, there’s a consultation. That’s what consultations are about. The staff may come forward with another solution that we haven’t thought about. And we will certainly listen to them, and we will take seriously whatever it is they come forward with. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: But what was said, and what does the future hold for patients who may need to be moved, and workers who might lose their jobs? Well joining us now is Donna Bennett. She’s Chair of the Greenwood and Welland Service Users’Support Group, and was involved in the meeting with Marco Cereste, and John Toomey the Regional Organiser for Unison. So we can safely say you’ve not been gagged.
DONNA BENNETT: (LAUGHS)
PAUL STAINTON: You’re talking! You can’t be.
DONNA BENNETT: Not as Chairperson for the Service Users’ Support Group. No.
PAUL STAINTON: So what does that mean?
DONNA BENNETT: Basically, we feel that people have a right to know what we are planning, and how our success is moving along. Obviously, it was felt that as a worker, media intervention was not allowed. So, from a working point of view, no, I wouldn’t be able to make comments, but as the Chairperson for the Support Group, yes.
PAUL STAINTON: So if you came on here and I said you were a carer at Greenwood House or Welland House, you wouldn’t be able to talk.
DONNA BENNETT: No.
PAUL STAINTON: That was made clear in the meeting, was it?
DONNA BENNETT: That was the impression I got from Terry Rich. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. OK. So what else was said at this meeting? Was it an open and frank exchange, or were you just told what to say and what not to say?
DONNA BENNETT: The meeting .. we were under the impression the meeting was going to be private. The three of us, which was myself, the Vice Chair and the Secretary of the Support Group, with Marco himself. When we actually arrived, Mr Rich was in attendance. So the Vice Chair then decided that she couldn’t continue with the meeting, so she actually left, due to circumstances that had happened previously. So then it was just myself, our Secretary and Marco and Mr Rich.
PAUL STAINTON: The Vice Chair left due to circumstances that happened previously. What were they?
DONNA BENNETT: I can’t really comment on them. Sorry.
PAUL STAINTON: All right. OK. Fair enough. Is there going to be various things you’re not going to be able to comment on? (THEY LAUGH)
DONNA BENNETT: Possibly. Who knows?
PAUL STAINTON: John, can you come in?
JOHN TOOMEY: Yes. I think what we’re talking about is some pretty vile behaviour on the part of the City Council. We’re seeing the two faces. There’s the smiling public face, we want to listen, we want to talk to people, and so on, and the one that appears behind the closed doors, which is the iron fist appearing. And that is the veiled threat to people like Donna about speaking out.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s a pretty extreme allegation John.
JOHN TOOMEY: It is. But it is the reality of course. And that’s why the Leader of the Council wasn’t prepared to meet with the three representatives in private. He turned up with a minder instead, with his Acting Director of Adult Social Care. And I say Acting Director of course, because we know what’s going to happen. That particular person will come in, will facilitate the closure of these homes, then disappear off into the sunset.
PAUL STAINTON: Well I think we’ve revealed on this show he’s done exactly that before in three different areas.
JOHN TOOMEY: What I don’t think you’ve revealed Paul is the fact that the Council has tried to lean on the BBC quite hard as well, haven’t they?
PAUL STAINTON: Well … I don’t .. I think that .. that’s a bit disingenuous.
JOHN TOOMEY: I appreciate it’s quite difficult for you to be able to talk about something .. and I know you’ve not been gagged. But …
PAUL STAINTON: Let me answer .. let me .. John John John John. Let me answer ..
JOHN TOOMEY: We understand they said to you, that they felt you were behaving in an imbalanced way, and that they really wanted to deal with things differently. Now I also understand that they haven’t come forward with anything since then.
PAUL STAINTON: John. Let me take one thing at a time. We did meet with the Council press department. I did meet with Gillian Beasley at MY request. Because I wasn’t happy with some of the things that had been said in the Council Chamber. And I demanded an apology for some of the things that were said. That was a private matter. And that was carried out. I also said I felt that they’d dealt with it badly, because we were trying to look at every angle, not just your angle, not just Donna’s angle. We wanted to look at all the angles. That was the substance of the meeting. There was no leaning.
JOHN TOOMEY: Paul, I’m trying to look convinced now, as I look at you across the studio. I’m finding it difficult. I understand what you’re saying, and I think equally you understand what we’re saying, that you have a situation where what’s said publicly and what’s said privately can often be two different things. And that’s why there are some staff who feel apprehensive about being able to speak out. Now from a Unison perspective, we make it very clear. Providing people aren’t relying on their professional situation, providing they’re not being seen to speak on behalf of the Council, they are perfectly free to speak. And I’ve said earlier, this is the sort of vile behaviour you expect from the Putin government in Russia, or indeed the Chinese government, trying to silence people who speak out. And we’re saying to Marco Cereste, we’re not going to have people in Peterborough silenced in that way. The staff have got every right to speak out about what’s happening to them, and more importantly what’s happening to their clients.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you take the Council’s point that by speaking out, you may be upsetting the residents a little bit more? Maybe it’s better to .. we’ve all had our say, to all intents and purposes, for this. The consultation is ongoing. Maybe it’s better we, the Council would say, keep talking behind closed doors, and not upsetting the residents.
JOHN TOOMEY: So everybody grows silent, while we see our last two public homes closed. We know that this consultation is going to be a sham exercise. We know that decisions have been made. We know that there are £6 million that’s got to be spent, and we’ve said that should be spent on a purpose built state-of-the-art home that provides both respite care and specialised dementia care.
PAUL STAINTON: Because you’ve changed your stance now to some extent, haven’t you Donna? You’re not looking .. you’re sort of accepting aren’t you that the care homes are going to close, but you want a new one built.
DONNA BENNETT: Yes. From all the briefings and everything else, the Council are adamant that the homes have to be closed. So we’re saying fine, but we want a newbuild. We want the homes to stay open until the newbuild has been finished, and we can all move in together. That way, it’s continuity for our clients, because they obviously know all the staff, and we all move together. They keep their social network, with the friends that they’ve built up within the homes.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you confident that in this consultation exercise that that point of view is being listened to?
DONNA BENNETT: My opinion is that basically, from the meeting we had, it was made quite clear that there is no newbuild. There will be no newbuild. It’s not on their cards to have a newbuild.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a consultation. How can they say that at this stage?
DONNA BENNETT: That was what was pretty clear. That was made clear at the meeting with Marco.
PAUL STAINTON: So it appears to be a fait accompli then, if that’s made clear at the meeting. There’s going to be no newbuild. The homes will close. That’s the end of it.
JOHN TOOMEY: That’s what we’ve said. That’s their position. That’s not our position. And we hope, more importantly, it’s not the position of people in Peterborough. We’re sure listeners out there will be aware that these are going to be the last two publicly owned homes, and after that, we’re in thew hands of those people who own all the other homes out there, in the city. They’ll name the price, and they’ll get what they want. But for the residents, it means they’re going to be scattered to the four corners of the city, and that’s absolutely appalling.
PAUL STAINTON: For folks listening to the show this morning, who are concerned, who want to get involved, want to hear their voices, how do they get involved in the consultation?
JOHN TOOMEY: Come and see us tomorrow. We’ll be in the city centre outside the Town Hall between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock. There’ll be people from the campaign collecting signatures for the petition and so on. And then come to the next meeting. Now because the campaign group have been thrown out of Greenwood House where they were meeting, they’re now meeting down at the Salvation Army.
DONNA BENNETT: And that’s on the 12th of September, 7pm.
PAUL STAINTON: And be assured, we toe the middle line.
JOHN TOOMEY: Keep a straight face when you say that Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Let me tell you now, when Gillian Beasley came in here, she was adamant that our coverage of the care home story was balanced and fair and impartial. And she said it sat right where you are Donna. Just there. And whatever councillors say, whatever people in the Chamber say, she knows what she’s talking about. And she came in here and said that. That was the sum total of the meeting.
JOHN TOOMEY: I can’t comment further on that.
PAUL STAINTON: No. Well you weren’t here. I was. (THEY LAUGH)